New governor proclamation requires accommodations for high-risk employees

April 16, 2020

On Monday, Gov. Inslee issued Proclamation 20-46 “High-Risk Employees—Workers’ Rights – which requires employers to take extra measures to accommodate employees who are considered at high risk for severe illness or death if they contract COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these are people over 65 and those with certain chronic underlying health conditions, regardless of age. The proclamation requires all Washington employers, private and public, to provide all available options for alternative work assignments to protect the employee from exposure to COVID-19, if requested. If a reasonable accommodation is not possible, the employee must be permitted to take leave or file for unemployment benefits. The employer must also continue to maintain all provide health insurance benefits until the employee returns to work, even if leave has been exhausted. Employers are also prohibited from permanently replacing the employee who exercises rights under the proclamation. Karin Jones of Stoel Rives LLP, who recently spoke to WSHA members about the new federal leave laws, has written a helpful column about the proclamation. The key take-away is that the above measures are triggered only if the high-risk employee requests the accommodation.


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