On May 21, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office updated its guidance on masks and vaccines in response to new recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has also updated its requirements and the Department of Health (DOH) has updated its rules on face coverings. Employers and business operators now have choices to make regarding their mask and vaccination policies.
The resources on this page are intended to help you understand current requirements and opportunities. They are not intended as legal advice. Please consult with your employment law counsel about the specifics of your business when setting employment policies.
In a recent webinar for the Washington Hospitality Association, attorney Catharine Morisset, hospitality employment law expert and partner at Fisher Phillips, reviewed the requirements and the options now available to Washington hospitality businesses under the latest rules and recommendations. This article draws on her presentation, which you can view in full here.
RULES, REQUIREMENTS & GUIDANCE
As Washington moves toward fully reopening, it is important for employers to continue to follow CDC guidance, L&I requirements, DOH rules, and the guidance from the governor’s office on coronavirus safety protocols. This will protect your staff and your guests, and also help protect your company. Following recommended safety protocols will help preserve your workers’ compensation coverage should an employee claim to have gotten sick at work.
Current masks and vaccination policies and recommendations are outlined in the following documents:
- L&I: Mask and Distancing Requirements (6.30.21)
- Governor’s Office: Updated COVID-19 Facial Covering Guidance for Employers and Businesses (5.20.21)
- DOH: COVID-19 Vaccinations FAQ for Employers (4.14.21)
- CDC: When you’ve been fully vaccinated (5.16.21)
CURRENT WORKPLACE MASK REQUIREMENTS
Workers in Washington state are still required to wear masks in the workplace. However, under the updated guidelines above, employers now have the option of allowing vaccinated employees to forgo masks. If an employer chooses this option, L&I requires them to verify employees’ vaccination status before allowing them to work without a mask. Businesses may also choose to allow vaccinated guests to be unmasked. Learn about mandatory and voluntary policy options, incentives, documentation, proof and potential risks through these resources:
- Washington Hospitality’s May 28 webinar Policies Regarding Masks, Vaccines, Employees and Guests with attorney Catharine Morisset
- Slidedeck from Policies Regarding Masks, Vaccines, Employees and Guests webinar
- Detailed article on what employers and business operators can and cannot do with regard to masks and vaccinations
SAMPLE FORMS & MODEL POLICIES
These forms are samples only and are not intended as legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor for information specific to your business.
- Sample attestation form for employee verification of COVID-19 vaccination
- L&I info sheet on changing mask and vaccine guidance (recommended to provide to employee if using verification form)
- Model mandatory vaccine policy (Fisher Phillips)
- Model non-mandatory vaccine policy (Fisher Phillips)
- Accommodation procedure (Fisher Phillips)
- Request For medical exemption/accommodation related to vaccine (Fisher Phillips)
- Request For religious exemption/accommodation related to vaccine (Fisher Phillips)
MASK POLICIES FOR GUESTS
In Washington, everyone is still required to wear masks and social distance when in public. However, the updated face covering proclamation issued by the Secretary of Health on May 15 excludes fully vaccinated people from this ongoing requirement.
Private businesses continue to have the right to require all guests to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Businesses can also choose to allow vaccinated guests to forgo masks.
- Sign reminding unvaccinated guests to remain masked: MasksRequiredUnvaccinated
- Sign asking all guests to reman masked: MasksRequiredforALL
If the policy is to allow vaccinated guests to skip masks, the operator has the option of 1) assuming an unmasked guest is vaccinated or 2) asking the guest about their vaccination status.
Asking about vaccination status can lead to issues, such as difficult discussions regarding a guest’s disability or political beliefs. The honor system might be easiest if it fits with your business philosophy. An honor system also avoids putting your staff in the difficult position of having to police compliance. If an unmasked guest states they are not vaccinated, the business has the right to refuse service. If a guest refuses to answer when asked about vaccination status, under the current state rules, the guest must be denied entry. If a guest has a medical exemption, you may let them enter or you must offer accommodation such as curbside pickup or take out.