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Oregon OSHA sees hundreds of complaints alleging mask mandate violations

"The bottom line here is about doing everything that we can to make sure workers are safe, people are safe. We need a lot of folks pulling in the right direction."

Posted: Aug 31, 2021 9:26 PM
Updated: Aug 31, 2021 9:40 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Since the beginning of the pandemic, Oregon OSHA has issued more than 188 citations to employers for violating COVID-19 restrictions.

Authorities told KEZI the agency is not stopping enforcement with this new mask mandate in place.

Since the most recent mask mandate began in mid-August, Oregon OSHA said they've received more than 1,000 complaints from residents. That includes nearly 75 complaints since yesterday.

Many complaints are like this one:

"Employer is not ensuring that employees are wearing masks at all times. Employees have doors open or not shut all the way, with no masks on. Employee at front desk frequently has mask removed."

Aaron Corvin, with Oregon OSHA, said they work off open complaints.

"Our approach is, often we'll engage with an employer, we will contact them, we will basically be talking to them about 'What are you doing to address this?' and see if we can get it straightened out of the gate, then so much the better," Corvin said.

Under the Oregon Safe Employment Act and Oregon OSHA's rules, the minimum penalty for a violation is $100. The maximum is $12,675.

Penalties are typically determined based on the severity and probability of the violation cited, as well as the size of the employer.

"The bottom line here is about doing everything that we can to make sure workers are safe, people are safe. We need a lot of folks pulling in the right direction," Corvin said.

These investigations can take anywhere from one week to a month, depending on how much cooperation authorities get from the business.

They don't give any kind of advance notice with these inspections. You're not going to know if they choose to show up based on a complaint they've received.

"We don't have ticket books. It's not like speeding tickets or anything like that," Corvin said. "We have a process that we follow where we open an investigation and gather facts. We are trying to get a sense of what's going on at the outset."

Just in Lane County, there are currently 83 complaints in progress. Most of these say the employees were not wearing a mask, and others are complaining about maskless customers. In Douglas County, there are currently 59 complaints. Benton County only has 18 active complaints. Coos County is at 22.

Corvin said they take every complaint seriously. However, there have yet to be any citations or on-site inspections at this time.

Rudy Luchiano, a waiter at Don Juan Mexican restaurant in Santa Clara, said it wasn't just the kitchen that got hot when two people started fighting over masks.

"We enforce masks depending on what the Oregon requirements are at the time. When they aren't required, they aren't required, but when they are, they are," Luchiano said.

Luchiano said people should respect what the business is or isn't enforcing, and if you can't, you shouldn't be there in the first place.
"If people don't agree with the decision of the business, then they can go elsewhere," Luchiano said.

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