OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration has extended some union provisions to nonrepresented and exempt Washington state workers that gives them a little more time to get vaccinated before losing their jobs.
Those provisions will allow workers who sought exemptions or accommodations from the vaccinate mandate more time to get their shots before losing their jobs. Others who started their vaccination process late can also get extra time.
The move comes as Washington’s agencies work to verify how many of the 63,000 state workers subject to Inslee’s mandate were vaccinated as of Monday.
Monday was the last day for state workers to get a shot to meet Inslee’s Oct. 18 deadline. That’s because full vaccination isn’t achieved until two weeks after the final shot.
Extending the union provisions to nonrepresented workers — like those in management, or who serve at the pleasure of an agency executive — will cover many thousands of additional workers. An exact figure, however, wasn’t available Monday evening.
In an email, Inslee spokesperson Tara Lee wrote that the decision was made for “Fairness and administrative ease.”
“The goal is to vaccinate not terminate,” Lee added.
The provisions being extended come from a deal struck in early September between the Inslee administration and the Washington Federation of State Employees.
Under that deal, if a state worker’s request for a medical or religious exemption is denied by the state, that worker can use up to 45 days of unpaid or paid leave to get vaccinated, according to an outline of the deal.
That 45-day grace period will also apply to employees whose vaccine exemption is approved, but where an accommodation can’t be found by the state for them to work in a position where they interact with fewer people.
Another key provision applies to employees who have essentially gotten a late start on their vaccination.
If a worker starts the process late and isn’t fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, they can use unpaid leave for up to 30 days to complete their regimen.
In that case, the worker keeps the right to return to their position or a vacant one in the same job class as long as they are fully vaccinated and the state hasn’t permanently filled their position. That provision expires on Nov. 17.
The governor announced in August that state and school employees, as well as hundreds of thousands of private health care workers, must get vaccinated by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs. With no option for regular testing in lieu of the shots, Inslee’s mandate is among the strictest in the nation.
It has spurred protests and backlash by state workers, thousands of whom have asked for exemptions.
More than two-thirds of Washington state workers had been verified as fully vaccinated as of Sept. 20.