(Update: adding video, new info, comments from OSHA and customer)
Agency says Kevista Coffee willfully continued to potentially expose workers
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Kevista Coffee Shop's battle with the state over COVID-19 public health restrictions it refuses to follow reached a new level Tuesday, as Oregon OSHA levied the largest pandemic-related fine issued against any restaurant.
The agency announced Tuesday it has fined Kevista Coffee in Bend $27,470 for violating three standards designed to protect employees from COVID-19.
It's by far the largest fine the agency has levied against any Oregon restaurant over COVID-19 violations. It's also the second-largest levy OSHA has handed down due to COVID-19 volations, behind only Courthouse Club Fitness, a gym in Salem, that was hit with a fine of $126,749 in January.
"They are openly choosing, knowingly choosing, and have acknowledged that during the inspection, to not follow these, and not uphold these workplace health and safety standards," said Aaron Corvin, OSHA’s public information officer, told NewsChannel 21.
Corvin said Kevista Coffee ignored capacity restrictions and allowed indoor dining when Deschutes County was in the Extreme Risk category. Even if a county improves in risk level after the inspection, as is the case with Deschutes County, OSHA still follows through with those fines.
“The citation still gets issued, regardless of whether those risk levels have changed,” Corvin said.
This fine is three times the normal amount of $8,900 for a willful violation, which is the exact penalty Kevista Coffee received the first time in July 2020.
Still, when NewsChannel 21 paid a visit to Kevista Coffee Tuesday afternoon, it did not appear that the latest fine has prompted the coffee shop to change things. Few if any customers inside were wearing masks, from the customers, to the employees and the owner himself.
"I am not,” customer Elijah Hooper said, when NewsChannel 21 asked if he was wearing a mask inside.
Hooper added, “Looking around, most people that go there usually are there for that reason, and none of them really have masks. People that do want to abide by such rules usually don't go there."
OSHA said there are not any known COVID-19 outbreaks linked to the coffee shop, but they approach these situations proactively, rather than reactively.
Corvin said, "If we document and find a violation of standards, regardless of whether someone's been hurt or not, we can identify that violation and issue a penalty."
Owner Kevin Lauinger declined to go on camera, but he did say Kevista Coffee will be appealing this fine, as they did the previous one.
Corvin admitted several inspections are underway at other businesses in Central Oregon and across the state, and more fines are likely on the way.
“Unfortunately, and sadly, we are likely to see more of these types of citations involving willful violations," he said. "Certainly, what we’ve done so far will not be the last. I can say that with certainty.”
Below is the rest of the news release OSHA sent out Tuesday morning:
In one of the violations, the agency said the business willfully continued to potentially expose workers to the virus, despite a public health order limiting the capacity of indoor dining to zero in an “extreme risk” county.
The citation resulted from an inspection launched in response to multiple complaints about Kevista (its legal name is Laui Life Coffee LLC). The inspection documented the fact that the company, operating in Deschutes County, willfully began allowing indoor dining beginning on Dec. 3, and thereafter. During that time, Deschutes County was designated an “Extreme Risk” for transmission of the disease.
During the inspection, the owners of Kevista – Krista and Kevin Lauinger – said they chose to reopen the coffee shop, even though they were aware that it went against workplace health requirements, OSHA said.
Using his discretionary authority under state law, Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood imposed a $26,700 penalty for the willful violation. That is three times the minimum penalty for such a violation.
"The decision reflects the need to ensure a more appropriate deterrent effect where employers insist on disregarding health and safety standards," OSHA said in Tuesday's announcement.
"Such willful behavior puts employees at risk and enables the employer to achieve a competitive advantage over businesses that comply with the requirements," they added.
“Through engagement and education, we’ve helped many employers understand and follow on-the-job health and safety rules during the pandemic. And most employers have chosen – and continue to choose – doing the right thing as we work to defeat this disease in Oregon,” Wood said. “As for the vocal few who insist on defying standards and putting their workers at risk, we will continue to bring our enforcement tools to bear.”
Altogether, Oregon OSHA cited three violations of the division’s temporary rule to address COVID-19 risks in the workplace:
- In allowing indoor dining, Kevista Coffee knowingly chose to disregard capacity limitations imposed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for such establishments in a county designated as extreme risk. It was a willful violation, carrying a discretionary penalty of $26,700.
- The company failed to develop and implement an infection control plan. Such a plan could include redesigning the workspace to enable physical distancing and reducing the use of shared surfaces and tools. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $385.
- The company did not conduct any COVID-19 risk assessment to identify potential employee exposure to the virus and to address how to reduce such exposure. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $385.
This is not the first time Oregon OSHA has cited Kevista Coffee for a violation of COVID-19 requirements. Last July, the division issued an $8,900 citation to the company for willfully failing to implement face coverings in line with sector-specific guidance for restaurants and bars. Kevista's appeal of that find is still pending, the agency said.
Ongoing refusals to correct violations and come into compliance with workplace health and safety standards can lead to additional higher penalties.
Meanwhile, if an Oregon OSHA inspection documents violations while a county is at extreme risk, but the county’s risk level drops before the citation is issued, the citation will still be issued. The change in risk levels may affect how the violation needs to be corrected, but not whether it is cited, OSHA said.
Employers have 30 days to appeal citations.
NewsChannel 21's Max Goldwasser was told Tuesday that Kevista again will go through the appeals process with OSHA. No one among staff or customers were wearing masks during a visit at midday Tuesday.
An OSHA spokesman said the only higher penalty issued by the agency related to COVID-19 was of $126,749 against a Salem fitness center.
Since the pandemic began, Oregon OSHA has issued nearly 100 citations to employers for violating requirements to protect workers from COVID-19. The resulted from about 200 formal enforcement actions, largely based on more than 20,000 complaints received by the agency.
Penalties for non-willful serious violations have ranged from the minimum of $100 to $4,200, well under the top penalty for a serious violation of $12,750. Penalties for willful violations have ranged from the minimum of $8,900 to the maximum of $126,749.
In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers and workers a variety of consultation, information, and education resources addressing COVID-19.
Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit osha.oregon.gov."