Snohomish nursery workers banned from wearing masks

VIDEO: Snohomish County business owner ordering employees to not wear masks

SNOHOMISH, Wash. — A North Sound plant nursery is being investigated by the state for ordering employees to not wear masks.

For more than a week, employees at Flower World have not worn masks while on the job because the boss has forbidden it.

“Would you allow workers to wear the mask if they come to you and ask you?” KIRO 7 News asked Flower World owner John Postema.

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“No,” he answered. “We would say, ‘Think about it… we will support your unemployment. You’d probably make more than you do here and let’s not make a big deal about it.’”

Yet, at least one employee did think it was a big deal. They approached Washington's Department of Labor and Industries for help.

“That’s not how it works,” said Tim Church, Washington Deptartment of Labor and Industries. “Your workplace can’t decide that you won’t wear a seatbelt or can’t have a driver’s license because you decided that’s how it’s gonna be.”

As the state launches an investigation into his business, Postema insisted it's unsafe for his workers to wear masks inside the scorching greenhouses on his property.

He said masks make it hard for employees to breathe easily, especially as they perform heavy lifting in a hot environment.

“It’s less oxygen when they do physical work, so all of that doesn’t make it very good,” he told KIRO 7.

Yet, the department insisted drastic times, such as COVID-19 call for drastic measures, including everyone wearing masks.

“The fact that coronavirus is a known workplace hazard -- we’re comfortable on the authority on this,” Church said.

Ahead of a possible legal battle, Postema said employees who do want to wear masks can leave temporarily and not lose their jobs.

“So they wouldn’t be fired or reprimanded?” KIRO 7 asked.

“No. They can come back. That’s part of the law,” he responded.

Other than masks, Postema said he's followed other rules very strictly, including social distancing and sanitizing.

He added that every employee is required to wash their hands several times each shift.