Sen. Lynda Wilson, co-owner of DeWils Industries, a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company in Vancouver, has heard from both employees and constituents about the stress a knock on the door from a government official can cause.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1352 into law, a measure championed by the Republican from Vancouver that she hopes can alleviate some of the uncertainty when a business is being inspected or audited. The bill doesn’t create any new rights for small business owners, but aims to make their existing rights more transparent so they feel empowered.
“When the government knocks at your door and says, ‘We’re here to inspect you,’ too many times you’re feeling worried,” Wilson said.
More than 90 percent of small businesses in the state have fewer than 50 employees, Wilson said. This measure will clarify and enumerate their rights.
“Many small businesses don’t have the means to have a dedicated person to understand the rules and regulations from an agency,” the senator said, adding she believes it will “help the relationship between agencies and businesses, knowing the rules.”
The measure will require the state’s attorney general to work with state agencies to review and clarify their rules and articulate what rights a business owner has when a state inspector shows up. The measure applies to the Departments of Labor and Industries; Ecology; Revenue; Employment Security; Agriculture; and the State Fire Marshal.
Years ago, a government inspector informed a DeWils Industries employee that the eyewash station was located in the wrong spot.
“We said, ‘Well, OK, where do you want us to move it?’ They said they didn’t know. … Years later, they came back and told us, ‘You can’t have it here either,'” Wilson said. “I can tell you that it’s frustrating. You try to comply, but you don’t know how to comply.”
This measure would ensure the official presents the small business owner with their rights, such as the ability to hire an attorney and agency contact information if they need follow-up information.
While signing the bill, Inslee said it would help small business understand their rights by directing regulatory agencies to gather information in one report that will be given to small businesses.
“The report will include attorney general policy recommendations for clarifying or harmonizing protections for small businesses,” Inslee said.
Small businesses in Washington employ 1.3 million people, according to figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration.