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Grants Pass restaurant fined over $17,000 for COVID violations

Grants Pass, Ore. — Oregon OSHA has fined Gold Miner Restaurant in Grants Pass $17,900 for violating two standards designed to protect employees from the coronavirus disease.

“Most employers continue to comply with workplace health and safety standards that are specifically designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Yet, some have insisted on a different path, one that potentially puts workers at risk,” wrote Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA in a press release. “In those cases, we will continue to seek accountability through our enforcement work.”

The citation resulted from an inspection launched in response to multiple complaints and a referral from Josephine County Public Health. The inspection documented the fact that Gold Miner Restaurant was willfully allowing indoor dining on or about Feb. 14 and continuing to do so afterward until March 12.

During that time, Josephine County was designated as “extreme risk” for transmission of the coronavirus disease. On March 12, the county’s risk level was lowered from “extreme” to “high.” During the inspection, the restaurant’s owner, Nancie Bowers, said she was aware that allowing indoor dining during the extreme risk period went against workplace health requirements.

Using his discretionary authority under state law, Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood imposed a $17,800 penalty for the willful violation. That is twice the minimum penalty for such a violation. The decision reflects the need to ensure a more appropriate deterrent effect where employers insist on disregarding health and safety standards.

Altogether, Oregon OSHA cited two violations of the division’s temporary rule to address COVID-19 risks in the workplace:

In allowing indoor dining, Gold Miner Restaurant knowingly chose to disregard capacity limitations imposed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for such establishments in a county designated as extreme risk. The willful violation carried a discretionary penalty of $17,800.

The employer failed to follow OHA requirements to ensure that all workers inside the establishment wore a source control device, such as a mask, face-covering, or face shield. It was a serious violation, carrying a $100 penalty.