Businesses fight back after Santa Clara County imposed $ 6 million in COVID fines

Santa Clara County is at risk of winning millions in fines from South Bay businesses.

The sanctions cover a wide range of violations relating to COVID-19 restrictions. But some companies are fighting their fines saying the penalties don’t match the crimes.

The Salon Professional Academy at Westgate Center Mall in western San Jose is like most businesses – it’s struggling to shake off the negative economic effects of the COVID pandemic.

“We’re finally getting our customers back. People are getting more comfortable,” said co-owner Magdalena Wozniakowski.

What was uncomfortable for the owners of the cosmetology school was that they were fined from Santa Clara County for not displaying the correct sign of COVID capability in the window.

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“They came by on a Saturday. We fixed the sign in 20 minutes and still got a $ 3,500 fine,” Wozniakowski said.

Other business owners have reported the same type of treatment from county enforcement officers.

“We were fined for farmers who did not wear their masks properly,” said Kayla Hayden, manager of the Saratoga Farmers’ Market.

She said law enforcement officers took photos of the alleged violations, as workers lunched or lifted heavy loads of produce during their one-day-a-week farmer’s market.

“As soon as we received the fine, we requested a hearing,” said Hayden.

A report from East Bay Hours reveals that Santa Clara County has fined more than 400 companies $ 6 million for COVID violations. This sum exceeds all other counties in the Bay Area. A quarter of the companies fined have challenged the sanctions, which is another obstacle in itself.

“It was a little shocking. It lasted eight hours,” said Hayden.

In the end, the Farmers’ Market won the appeal and had its fine waived. The cosmetology school has had its fine of $ 3,500 reduced to the original amount, $ 500.

County officials say these small wins prove the system works.

But for companies struggling to bounce back from the “big shutdown,” it’s another hurdle to solvency.

“We had to deal with a lot of paperwork. Take time out of our day,” Wozniakowski said. “There are things you have to fight off if you think you’re right, which in this case we didn’t think we were.”

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