At the Association of Washington Business (AWB) forum last week, the discussion was focused on the recent Federal government mandate for businesses with 100 employees or more to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or seek a religious or medical exemption. Employers can offer accommodations for those employees exempted from the vaccinee requirement.
It appears though that Governor Inslee may be considering stronger restrictions on small business, reducing the 100-employee threshold to 50 and removing the testing option as a way to accommodate employees who are not vaccinated.
Earlier in October, in a Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ) article, the Julia Gorton, director for the Washington Hospitality Association was quoted as saying “Members should be prepared for our state to strip out the testing option and have a strict vaccine requirement. I think we'll also probably see them drop the employee threshold down from 100. It'll probably be closer to 50.”
Particularly troublesome is the removal of a testing option which will cause undue hardship on many employees who cannot receive the vaccine. Small business will be forced to lay off critical employees, forced by the state mandate, and will not be able to replace them easily.
The criteria used for social distancing and other safety requirements should be applied consistently across business sectors.
A light regulatory hand from the state and county government is needed and, in many circumstances, simple guidelines, not restrictive regulations will be the only requirement needed to ensure a safe and healthy restart of the economy.
Businesses should not be required to enforce controversial state or county mandates.
Washington business owners are quite capable of understanding what is needed to keep both employees and customers safe in the COVID future.
A business should be allowed to operate under common sense health and safety standards without government interference.
Mark Harmsworth is the director of the Small Business Center for the Washington Policy Center.