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April 17, 2021

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Evans Fruit Co. says it will appeal $150,000 COVID-19 fine

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YAKIMA — Evans Fruit Co. says it plans to appeal a $150,000 fine by the state Department of Labor & Industries for violations of workplace COVID-19 restrictions.

“Evans Fruit Co. is and always has been committed to the health and safety of its employees,” the company said in a written statement Thursday. “To that end, in light of the serious nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in compliance with Washington State law, Evans Fruit Co. requires all employees to wear masks at all times while working.”

The company contends that L&I had recognized the company was in compliance during an inspection Dec. 16.

L&I announced Wednesday that it was issuing a $150,000 fine against the Cowiche-based fruit grower and processor for two “willful and serious violations.” During an inspection last fall, an L&I inspector found several warehouse and office employees who were not wearing masks and encountered a supervisor who was not enforcing the policy, the agency said. L&I also said it found workers who were not social distancing or lacked physical barriers between them.

L&I said Evans Fruit Co. came into compliance shortly after it issued an “Order and Notice of Immediate Restraint” the day after the fall inspection. L&I still issued the fine.

Evans Fruit Co. was cited last summer for similar violations and issued a $6,600 fine. The company appealed.

Evans Fruit Co. said it disputes the violations alleged by L&I.

According to Evans, L&I suggested shutting down half its production lines at the Cowiche facility to ensure social distancing, a move that would have led to the loss of several dozen jobs. The company maintains that it had established social distancing while keeping employees working.

“Evans Fruit Co. is committed to continuing to protect and promote the health and safety of workers — without sacrificing jobs,” the company said.

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