Flower World hit with $4,200 fine for banning face masks

Inspectors say the Maltby nursery’s policy put workers at risk of exposure to coronavirus.

MALTBY — A plant nursery whose owner forbade employees from wearing masks has been fined $4,200 for failing to ensure a safe workplace and potentially exposing workers to the coronavirus.

Flower World was cited for a “serious” violation by the state Department of Labor and Industries following an investigation begun when employees were told they could not wear masks — even though Gov. Jay Inslee had mandated face coverings be worn in workplaces to combat the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

Inspectors, who visited the Maltby business three times between June 15 and 26, found the firm did not make sure workers, at all times, maintained 6-foot social distancing and wore masks or face coverings, and it did not conduct temperature checks of employees at the start of each workday.

“On at least one occasion our inspector saw multiple workers without face coverings and failing to maintain six-foot social distancing, including three employees who were less than one foot apart,” agency spokesman Tim Church said in an email.

They also obtained a flyer distributed to workers saying neither employees nor customers would be required to wear masks, he said.

Flower World received the “citation and notice” late last week. It has 15 days to appeal.

“Flower World has told us they plan to comply, and we have been on site once and verified they are following the rules,” Church said.

Owner John Postema could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Flower World employees received a letter with their paychecks in early June saying they weren’t allowed to wear masks. Postema told the Herald then that he believed masks would be a hazard for his employees, rather than keeping them safe.

His actions defied guidance issued by Inslee on May 28 directing all workers, with a few exceptions, wear cloth facial coverings on the job. That directive also required employers supply any needed personal protective equipment for their employees, including face masks.

After a Herald article reported the state was investigating, Postema explained his justification of the no-mask rule to customers in a June 22 newsletter.

“We have concluded it is neither fair nor healthy for our employees to wear a mask for 8 hours in potential 80-90 degree temperatures,” it read.

The next day Inslee expanded the mask mandate, requiring everyone wear a face covering in any indoor or outdoor public setting.

Postema told the Herald in June that he planned to challenge the legality of the mask mandate “based on the rational(e) that face masks do not protect our employees and is in conflict with” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Pallet communities are groups of tiny homes for unhoused people. Here, a worker installs weatherstripping on a pallet shelter at Pallet in Everett in January 2020. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Tiny home community is proposed at a Marysville church

The Pallet shelter community would provide transitional housing to eight people. Neighbors have questions.

The Everett Police Department has asked the City Council to keep its nine Stay Out of Drug Areas, zones where people arrested for drug crimes are not allowed. (City of Everett)
Everett police ask council to renew 9 drug enforcement areas

SODAs are a legal tool that prohibits people arrested for drug crimes from entering certain areas.

Police: After short chase in Marysville, man dies by suicide

Officers responded to a domestic violence call. The suspect reportedly shot himself at the end of a chase.

Alain Warchilde racks an e-bike available for Saturday's parking lot sale at Sharing Wheels in Everett on June 16, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Need new-to-you bike? It’s time for a sale at Sharing Wheels

The Everett nonprofit kept fixing and donating bicycles in spite of pandemic closure and challenges.

The final version of the 737 MAX, the MAX 10, takes off from Renton Airport in Renton, WA on its first flight Friday, June 18, 2021. The plane will fly over Eastern Washington and then land at Boeing Field  (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
Boeing’s newest version of the 737 Max makes first flight

The Max 10 took off near Seattle for an expected two-hour trip.

Jeff Thoreson does a cheer with his second grade class before the start of their kickball game on his last in-person day of school on Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish teacher hit the right notes in memorable career

Jeff Thoreson will retire this month after molding minds at Riverview Elementary School for 41 years.

Arlington-area man arrested in fatal machete attack

The suspect, 31, claimed self-defense. It was an argument over a wheelbarrow, a sheriff’s deputy wrote.

Pilot Dan Tarasievich lines up for a landing at  Arlington Municipal Airport after a morning of flying with friends on Saturday, April 20, 2019 in Arlington, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Could Snohomish County’s two largest airports be expanded?

A study explores expanding runways at Paine Field and Arlington Municipal to relieve a coming crunch.

Junelle Lewis becomes emotional while performing a dance with her children during the Justice to Jubilee Juneteenth Celebration at Skykomish River Park on Saturday, June 19, 2021 in Monroe, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Justice to Jubilee: ‘Noone is free till everyone is free’

People gathered Saturday in a Monroe park to celebrate Juneteenth, a new federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery.

Most Read