By Daniel Warn / [email protected]
The city of Yelm will not implement a recent resolution approved by the council to essentially ignore recent workplace guidelines issued by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry (L&I), said the Mayor JW Foster.
The guidelines require employers to provide verification of the COVID-19 vaccination status of their workers in order to rescind mask warrants in the workplace.
“This is not a suggestion,” said L&I spokesperson Tim Church. “This is a requirement when it comes to COVID. If the employer wants workers to stop wearing masks, then they must provide verification of immunization status. “
Foster told council members on June 8, after passing the resolution, that they had turned their backs on the oath they had taken to uphold the state’s constitution.
“We will not carry out the intent of this resolution,” Foster said in an interview with the Nisqually Valley News on June 16. “The resolution would order me to disobey the legal mandates that come from the organization of work and industries.”
According to Foster, Yelm and Bonney Lake are the only two out of 281 cities in Washington that have resolved to ignore the guidelines, but Bonney Lake ultimately decided not to implement her resolution.
Foster said city staff clarified the guidelines’ requirements with L&I. The city has consulted with its lawyer and insurance company to see what the legal ramifications of the resolution might be.
“My job is to take care of the town of Yelm – the fiduciary responsibility to ensure our finances are protected,” Foster said, referring to the enforcement fines the resolution could incur, as well as the vulnerability to prosecution.
If a city company uses the resolution as fuel to ignore guidelines and L&I fines them, the company could turn around and sue the city to settle the debt, Foster confirmed at the meeting. advice.
L&I enforces the guidelines based on complaints, Church said, and could show up at a workplace to check on a company’s tracking with the guidelines.
Additionally, Foster said he needs to think about the city’s workforce.
“My responsibility is also to the employees who work in (the town hall), to provide them with a safe and comfortable environment,” he said. “And by ‘comfortable’ I mean most of our employees wanted to remove their masks in the workplace and this is the advice L&I gave us to make that happen.”
Church said if employers don’t want to follow the guidelines, they must require their employees to wear masks.
Taking advice is one way to avoid doing just that, Foster said.
“I’m not going to take the advice that ‘make everyone wear a mask’,” Foster said. “It seems (like) a more authoritarian and totalitarian type attitude.”