Newsletter July 13, 2023







AG provides guidance for compliance with Washington My Health My Data Act

By Mike Hintze, Hintze Law

On June 30, the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (OAG) issued its highly-anticipated clarifying guidance on the Washington My Health My Data Act (the Act) through a publication presenting seven "frequently asked questions." Given the Act's inherent ambiguities, the business community has been eagerly awaiting this guidance in hopes of shedding much-needed light on its implications. While the guidance addresses one of the most significant areas of uncertainty—the effective dates—and addresses several other aspects, it regrettably leaves other important questions unanswered.

To understand the implications of this guidance, it is essential to emphasize that the Act does not empower the Attorney General with official rulemaking authority. Furthermore, this guidance does not constitute a formal opinion from the Attorney General. The Office of Attorney General underscored this advisory and non-binding nature at the end of the guidance.

In this blog post by Hintze Law, I discuss in detail this guidance issued by the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.

Read Mike Hintze’s blog post here


My Health My Data Act – Part 6: Data Subject Rights

By Mike Hintze, Hintze Law

Welcome to the sixth installment of our blog series focusing on the Washington My Health My Data Act. Part 6 discusses consumer rights under this Act.

The Washington My Health My Data Act grants consumers several rights such as access, deletion, withdrawal of consent, and non-discrimination when they exercise these rights. Although these rights aren't new in privacy laws, the unique ways they are included in this Act create ambiguity and impose new requirements that extend beyond what is required under existing laws. Consequently, entities trying to adhere to these laws will face considerable implementation challenges and, potentially, serious legal quandaries, especially concerning the right to delete. This, coupled with the Act’s provision for private lawsuits, significantly increases the risk of costly legal disputes and litigation.

We will continue to delve into this topic in the coming weeks, highlighting additional blog posts examining other components of the Act and the critical issues they raise.

Read Mike Hintze’s blog post here

Penalty increases for violations of workers' comp laws now in effect

Increased penalties for infractions of workers' compensation laws took effect on July 1.

This amendment is a result of legislation enacted in 2020, which called for an upward revision of statutory penalties for violations of workers' compensation laws, along with regular adjustments accounting for inflation. The prior legislation, dating back to the 1980s, had not provided for any increases in penalty amounts. According to RCW 51.48.095, penalties having specified dollar amounts are slated for inflationary adjustments every three years. An early notification was issued by the department in December, with a reminder now being sent out about the impending change on July 1, 2023.

The adjustment factor stands at 16.15%. Updated information about penalties can be accessed on the L&I website.

The updated law mandates penalty increases by evaluating the yearly shifts in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) in the Seattle, Washington area, during the three-year period before the adjustment. The CPI-W data is compiled by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The first adjustment draws upon changes in the annual CPI-W in the Seattle area for 2020, 2021, and 2022.

WR attends national unemployment insurance conference

Washington Retail recently attended the national unemployment insurance conference presented by the National Foundation for Unemployment Compensation and Workers’ Compensation. The meeting, held in Memphis, Tennessee, is the only national conference of its kind. UWC is the only organization dedicated to unemployment and workers’ compensation on a state and federal level. WR has been a longtime member and collaborator with UWC and its President, Doug Holmes.

Top speakers from Washington, D.C., and around the country filled three days of content on the latest policy and challenges facing our federal and state UI programs.

One of the major focuses of the conference was the recovery of the unemployment benefits stolen during the pandemic—totaling a staggering $191 billion nationally—the largest scam theft in the country’s history. Efforts are underway to identify the criminals, bring them to justice, and recover stolen funds. This has proven very challenging as many thieves are outside the US. A considerable amount of attention was given to preventing something like this from happening in the future. Ensuring the person applying for and receiving the benefits is who they say they are without unduly hindering legitimate claims.

Washington State is unique in the unemployment compensation space in several ways. We have the highest wage base – more than double the second-place state – and the highest weekly benefit in the country. We also have one of the most sound and stable UI trust funds. During the pandemic, Washington avoided borrowing money from the federal government to make benefit payments, while most other states ran out of money and ended up borrowing. California still owes the federal government $17 billion! 

WR appreciates the invaluable resources and information the UWC provided on its members' behalf and looks forward to our continued collaboration.

Washington’s average wage increased to $84,167 in 2022

The average annual salary in Washington rose to $84,167 in 2022, up 2% from the previous year, according to data from the state's Employment Security Department. These numbers will play a vital role in determining unemployment benefits for claims initiated from July 2, 2023, paid family and medical leave benefits starting from January 1, 2024, and setting employers' unemployment taxes from the same date. Additionally, it will influence the computation of workers’ compensation benefits by the Department of Labor and Industries.

Despite the growth, 2022's wage increase slowed down from 2021, when average wages jumped substantially by 10.6% — the second-largest increase in the state's history.

Over 3.4 million workers were covered by unemployment insurance in 2022, up by 177,865 from 2021. Both the minimum and maximum weekly unemployment benefits will see increases, moving to $323 and $1,109 respectively, while the employers’ taxable wage base will rise to $68,500. Minimum paid leave benefits, however, will remain unchanged at $100.

The sectors with the most significant wage growth last year include administrative, support, waste management, and remediation services, all of which saw a wage growth of 8.8%. Interestingly, the information industry experienced a decline in total wage payouts in 2022.

Shop local to celebrate Independent Retailers’ Month

Independent Retailer Month is celebrated in July to recognize the contribution of independent retailers who help our economy by creating sustainable cities, towns, and communities. This recognition was first observed in July 2011 when Tom Shay and Kerry Banniganed worked together with a common purpose to celebrate independent retailers around the globe.

The focus of Independent Retailer Month is to encourage consumers to shop locally at independently owned retailers. Shopping locally helps highlight the positive social and economic impacts these businesses have on local, national, and global levels. Our economy and the health of communities depend on our support of businesses owned by our friends and neighbors.

Civic Economics says the local community retains $68 of every $100 spent locally. Known as the multiplier effect, every dollar spent at an independent business returns three times more revenue to the local economy versus dollars spent at national chains. A 2018 Home Sweet Home study concluded that local retailers reinvest 130% more revenues than chain retailers.

Statistics and other data regarding independent retailers' economic and social contributions can be found here. Promotional resources for Independent Retailer Month are available on the Independent Retailer Month resources page.

Consumer sentiment rebounds more than expected in June

Over the past few years, there's been a noteworthy paradox wherein public sentiment about the broader economy was largely negative, despite individuals generally feeling positive about their personal finances and a robust job market. However, this trend may now be changing.

The Conference Board, a nonprofit research organization, reported that its consumer confidence index jumped to 109.7 in June from 102.5 in May, the highest level since January 2022. This surge aligns with a similar boost detected by the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index earlier in June.

Several factors could be driving this shift. Gas prices have stabilized recently and remain below last year's peaks, the stock market has experienced gains this year, the unemployment rate is low, and inflation has been decreasing. Furthermore, wage growth has outpaced rising prices, leading to an increase in real wages on average.

According to Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board, the gap between consumers who feel jobs are abundant versus those who think they're scarce has expanded. This implies a positive sentiment about the strong labor market. Expectations for future business conditions and job opportunities over the next six months have also notably improved.

June might have marked a shift in Americans' predominantly negative outlook on the economy. This change is supported by new data which elucidates the reasons behind it. The University of Michigan's final consumer sentiment survey for June reported a 9% increase in overall sentiment and an even more substantial boost in future expectations.

A significant catalyst appears to be easing concerns about inflation. Expectations for inflation over the next year dropped sharply from 4.2% in May to 3.3% in June. In comparison, last year, the expected inflation was 5.3%.

Democrats and political independents saw the most significant improvement in sentiment, with indices rising from 76.9 to 84.3 and 55.5 to 61.5, respectively. In contrast, Republicans' economic sentiment remained relatively low, with a slight increase from 45.6 to 46.4.

Joanne Hsu, director of the survey, suggested that this marked increase in optimism might stem from the resolution of the early-month debt ceiling crisis and easing inflation concerns.

Bed Bath & Beyond auctions off name and ‘top-notch’ store leases

Many Bed Bath & Beyond locations across America will soon be replaced by Burlington Stores, while bought the company’s name and intellectual property assets in bankruptcy proceedings. Overstock intends to sunset its name and rebrand itself as Bed Bath & Beyond.

Overstock’s “generic” name has held the company back, and it does not really reflect the company’s current focus on selling home goods and furniture online, Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson said. Overstock paid $21.5 million for the name and intellectual property assets.

Meanwhile, after a recent auction, defunct Bed Bath & Beyond chose bidders for 109 of its leases. Burlington agreed to take 44 of the leased locations for $12 million, the largest share. Burlington acquired six additional leases for $1.53 million outside of the auction process, bringing the total number of locations to 50 for $13.53 million. 

Many of the locations are considered “top-notch,” said Bill Read, executive vice president of commercial real estate firm Retail Specialists. He explained that the lease auction of Bed Bath offered growing businesses a chance to secure prime locations during a time when high-quality commercial real estate is hard to come by.

“In aggregate, the Bed Bath & Beyond locations were some of the best that I’ve seen become available. They’re usually in large community centers with Target as an anchor and multiple other desirable anchor tenants in the shopping center,” Read told CNBC. 

“These are generally in well-established, mature markets that have a proven track record of generating high sales,” he continued.

Several other retailers snatched up the leases. Here’s a list of the top winners: 

  • Burlington Coat Factory: 50 leases for a total price of $13.53 million.
  • Michael’s: Nine leases for $2.55 million.
  • Haverty: Four leases for $468,334.

Other winners include grocers, quality furniture stores, and discounters. Macy’s paid $1.2 million for a lease in swanky Winter Park, Florida, for a potential Bloomingdale’s location, and Barnes & Noble secured a lease in Concord, North Carolina, for $129,015. 

NRF releases 2023 Top 100 Retailers list

The National Retail Federation today released its annual list of the Top 100 Retailers, compiled by Kantar, a global marketing data, insight and consultancy company. The 2023 Top 100 Retailers ranks the industry’s largest companies according to domestic sales.

Longtime No. 1 Walmart held its top position with $499.65 billion in U.S. retail sales in 2022. is in second with sales of $232.46 billion, followed by Costco Wholesale ($164.15 billion), The Kroger Co. ($147.62 billion) and The Home Depot ($145.94 billion).

Among the top 10, there were some slight shifts: Kroger (No. 5 to No. 4); The Home Depot (No. 4 to No. 5); Target (No. 7 to No. 6); CVS Health Corporation (No. 8 to No. 7); and Walgreens Boots Alliance (No. 6 to No. 8). 

“Collectively, retailers were consistent across the board last year because most everybody grew, and at more or less the same rate,” Kantar Senior Vice President David Marcotte said. “The dynamic category to watch is big box, particularly as customers become more comfortable with the value proposition of membership fees.”

One notable jump is Signet Jewelers, which continued its growth trajectory by moving 10 spots on the list to No. 56. Additionally, international investment in the U.S. is increasingly noticeable. For example, Grupo Comercial Chedraui’s acquisition of Smart & Final Holdings Inc., which ranked No. 93 last year, has landed the company at No. 57 this year.

RiseUp coordinator Jessica Viera to boost retail workforce development in Western Washington

The Washington Retail (WR) Workforce Initiative is pleased to announce an upcoming visit by Jessica Viera, the National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation's RiseUp Outreach Coordinator, to Western Washington on August 8. The trip represents a significant expansion of WR's ongoing efforts, guided by the organization's commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) principles, to foster training and employment opportunities for entry-level and second-chance workers.

During her visit, Viera will engage with partners and stakeholders in roundtable events with two main objectives: to explore the potential benefits of the Rise Up certification program for workers and retail employers and foster connections between retail employers and workforce organizations.

The discussion will also focus on empowering the entry-level and second-chance workforce through upskilling and job opportunities. In addition, these events help to reinforce WR's commitment to inclusivity and workforce development.

Key stakeholders will attend, including the Workforce Development Council, King, Skagit, and Snohomish counties chambers, local mall operators, and retailers. Two main venues will host the roundtables: the Burlington Council Chamber for Skagit County and the Southcenter Mall for King and Snohomish counties.

Those interested in contributing to this discussion are encouraged to RSVP to Kathie Davies at, indicating their preferred location. These meetings will build on the WR's existing partnerships and provide a valuable platform for collaboration to strengthen Washington's retail workforce.

Unincorporated King County businesses will soon be required to accept cash

Spencer Pauley | The Center Square

Businesses in unincorporated parts of King County will be required to accept cash transactions as early as 2025.

Along with requiring businesses to accept cash, the ordinance also establishes that anyone who is refused the opportunity to pay with cash can bring a civil action against the retailer. Attorneys’ fees may be awarded and penalties of up to $100 for each $5 the customer attempted to purchase using cash, as well.

The ordinance was passed on June 27 by a 5-4 vote from the King County Council. Amendments were added to the bill, setting regulations for cash conversion devices, lowering the amount required to be accepted from $250 to $200, and setting the highest denomination at $20.

The King County Executive’s Office will be required to analyze enforcement of the ordinance and implementation mechanisms. The executive office will make a recommendation to the King County Council on an enforcement mechanism and any other implementation measures by Dec. 1, 2024. The law will take effect on July 1, 2025, according to King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

Kohl-Welles proposed the bill in January 2023, citing a 2021 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Household Survey that found at least 2.1% of Washington state residents do not have bank accounts, credit cards or other typical financial services.

In five years, the estimates are expected to increase to 3.1%, according to the councilmember. More than 17% of county residents rely on money orders, check-cashing services and payday loans.

“This legislation has been an important and sometimes challenging balancing act – trying to protect consumer access, support local businesses, and adapt to a changing world all at the same time,” Kohl-Welles said in a statement. “I am very pleased that the legislation as passed addresses this emerging equity issue in a way that is creative, proactive, and collaborative.”

Unincorporated King County retailers will be able to apply to the King County Hearing Examiner for an exemption from the requirement to accept cash based on hardships, including but not limited to history of theft, distance to a bank, home-based businesses, and businesses with only one employee on site at a time.

Seattle leads nation in hotel occupancy rates as tourism boosts the Puget Sound economy

Before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game throngs descended on Seattle, the city’s hotels already led all American cities with an 86.8% occupancy rate. This data covered the period from June 11 – 17.

While business travel and conventions are still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels, industry analysts believe that hotels could reach pre-Covid occupancy levels in 2024 or 2025. The current surge is being driven by recreational travel.

The MLB All-Star Game is expected to infuse $50 million into the Seattle economy during its July 7-11 festivities. Summer concerts are also pushing hotel occupancy upward, with headliners like George Strait, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Coldplay, and Ed Sheeran coming to Seattle.

Cruise industry tourism is expected to reach an all-time high, with 700,000 people traveling to Alaska on 289 cruise ship sailings. Analysts predict that the cruise industry bring another $900 million to the Seattle area economy. 

Washington state grapples with rising crime and dwindling police numbers

For the second consecutive year, Washington State has witnessed a concerning rise in violent crimes alongside a decreasing number of police officers. According to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), 2022 saw a 9.8% increase in property crimes and an 8.9% rise in violent crimes compared to 2021. Homicides reached a high, with an uptick of 16.6%, the highest number recorded since WASPC started collecting data in 1980.

Steven Strachan, the WASPC Executive Director, stressed that these trends were especially worrisome considering the decreasing officer staffing rate. In 2022, Washington State's police officer numbers fell to an all-time low, with 1.36 officers per 1,000 residents, the lowest rate in the US, placing Washington at 51st for the 13th year running.

This decline in law enforcement capacity negatively impacts the administration of justice for victims, pushing law enforcement to be more reactive and less proactive. Furthermore, assaults on officers jumped by 42% since 2018, a concerning trend in an already strained law enforcement environment.

While drug and narcotics violation arrests saw a 33% dip in 2022, Strachan does not anticipate this decline leading to an increase in arrests in the future. Additionally, 2022 experienced a significant rise in vehicle theft, with a 34% increase, mirroring a specific increase in thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles in Seattle.

These rising crime rates, juxtaposed with an all-time low in police staffing, underscore a pressing issue in Washington State. The challenge for policy makers is to devise effective, localized strategies to combat these distinct trends and ensure public safety.

Tacoma businesses fight for electric fences due to crime surge

Businesses in Tacoma are putting up electric fences to help protect their properties from increasing crime.

“There are so many people in the city working hard to keep things safe, but they have too much work and can't do everything,” said Michael Johnson, who works with the South Tacoma Business District Association. He described seeing many people living on the streets, abandoned RVs, and crime happening around the city.

However, the Tacoma Planning Commission doesn't want to make it easier for businesses to install electric fences without special permission. Currently, only businesses in industrial areas can use them.

In the last year and a half, the number of businesses asking for permission to put up electric fences has increased from eight to 25.

Johnson explained that a regular fence can't stand up to someone who really wants to get through it. An electric fence can stop them, but it also makes the business look like a prison. “What message does that say to our customers? What message does that say to our employees?”

He added, “You can only afford so many losses before you have to shut your doors.” Many businesses have already decided to leave because of the situation.

According to a report, Tacoma's crime rate is much higher than the rest of Washington state and the country. It's especially high in South Tacoma, Central, South End, and New Tacoma.

“The perfect world scenario is you got to come up with some sort of plan to help the people that are on the street,” Johnson said. “These are people who need help.”

The city has taken steps to clean up homeless camps and passed a law banning camping on public property near temporary shelters. Johnson said, “But we need that money on the ground. We need these people to get the help that they deserve and so rightfully need.”

Heat ruling now permanently in effect year-round

While working outdoors can offer numerous benefits, it also comes with certain risks, particularly when dealing with extreme weather conditions. Heat-related illnesses pose a significant threat to outdoor workers, and it is crucial to prioritize their prevention during the summer season.

In recognition of this, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has implemented permanent rules to be effective July 17th, which emphasize the inclusion of a section on heat-related illness to be included in your Accident Prevention Program (APP). Here is a PDF document with a brief overview of the ruling.

It is essential for both supervisors and employees who regularly work outdoors to undergo training in the new rules and familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Also, the rule includes additional hydration and shaded break periods depending on the outdoor temperature. A template with training requirements is available here to assist with this requirement.

Remember, prioritizing the safety and well-being of outdoor workers during extreme weather conditions is crucial, and proactive measures can help prevent heat-related illnesses and accidents. The new heat rules make for a great safety meeting topic for all employees.

Our safety team is available to help members take their safety program from compliance to quality safety practices. Contact us at to learn more.

WR diversity statement

WR is committed to the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We strive to create a safe, welcoming environment in which these principles can thrive.

We value all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or disability, and that is the foundation of our commitment to those we serve.

Washington Retail Staff

Renée Sunde




Rose Gundersen

VP of Operations

& Retail Services



Mark Johnson

Senior VP of Policy & Govt. Affairs



Robert B. Haase

Director of




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