Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials have fined Courthouse Club Fitness $90,000 for defying Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 order and remaining open throughout the two-week freeze.
Officials with OSHA, the agency tasked with enforcing compliance to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, said the penalty is the result of citations against each of the club’s four facilities.
Courthouse officials did not immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday.
“The total penalty for each individual inspection is $22,500,” said Mark Peterson, acting spokesman for OSHA . “That’s a willful penalty of $17,500 for being open to the public and a separate $5,000 penalty for violating the Red Warning Notices that we posted at each location late last week.”
He said Courthouse leadership continued to operate their fitness centers despite OSHA’s inquiries and warnings.
Before the statewide freeze went into effect on Nov. 18, Courthouse owner John Miller said in a statement that a second shutdown would push his business to the breaking point.
“As a result of the harm done to our business from the first shutdown, we will not survive another closure,” Miller said. “This is a horrible position I find myself in, and it leaves me with only one choice. Courthouse Club Fitness will remain open (Nov. 18) and the days to follow.”
New Oregon COVID mandates announced
On Wednesday, Brown said 21 Oregon counties will continue to be under restrictions when a two-week “freeze” expires Dec. 3.
Both Marion and Polk counties are among those 21 “extreme risk” counties.
In the extreme-risk counties, some restrictions will change. Restaurants and bars will be able to reopen for outdoor dining, although the state is still encouraging takeout instead. Capacity limits in stores and malls will be capped at 50%, down from the current 75%. Church activities will be limited to 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller.
Indoor gyms will remain closed.
During the initial freeze, Courthouse and Flex Fitness in Salem stated their intentions to remain open but stressed being in accordance with mandates such as social distancing, wearing masks and rigorous sanitation practices.
“Just because we’re drawing a line doesn’t mean we’re throwing everything out the window in terms of health and safety,” Courthouse vice president Drew Baker told the Statesman Journal.
Oregon OSHA has been fining businesses
Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 50 citations have been issued to businesses for not complying with parts of the pandemic orders by OSHA, which is designed to protect employees.
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The fines have typically ranged from $100 to $2,000 for lower-level citations, to $8,900 to $14,000 for “willful violations.”
Peterson said Courthouse is the first inspection to be completed since the freeze executive order.
Oregon OSHA has also opened an inspection with Flex Fitness LLC on 5115 Commercial St. SE.
What is a willful violation according to OSHA?
A willful violation includes keeping a business open after it’s been ordered to close, OSHA said. The highest citation so far was handed out to Salem’s Glamour Salon, which was fined $14,000 in May for remaining open.
“These willful penalties are essentially in line with the previous penalties we issued — the reason that the total is higher than the other cases where we cited both a willful and a Red Warning Notice is primarily because there are four different inspections,” Peterson said. “In addition, the employer is larger; without the size reduction, the penalty for the willful violations comes out to more than the $8,900 minimum penalty we have used in other cases.”
What is the maximum penalty
The maximum penalty possible for a single willful violation under the current penalty rules is $126,749.
Are daily fines possible?
Daily penalties are possible in the future if the employer fails to correct the violation by coming into compliance with the Executive Order, Peterson added.
Reporter Zach Urness contributed to this story