September 14, 2021

-My Northwest


A new lawsuit was filed late last week in Walla Walla County Superior Court, seeking to overturn Gov. Jay Inslee’s soon-to-be-enacted vaccine mandate for state workers.

Inslee’s mandate was announced in early August, giving all state workers — as well as those in private health care, long-term care, and other congregate settings — until Oct. 18 to either be fully vaccinated, get approved for a religious exemption, or face termination. That was later expanded to include educators and school staff.

That saw the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) — the state’s largest union of public service workers — file a lawsuit in mid-August asking a court to “compel (the state) to bargain in good faith.” The WFSE is currently in the process of withdrawing that lawsuit after ratifying an agreement with Gov. Inslee’s office last Friday.

Now, a new lawsuit has been filed on behalf of dozens of Washington state troopers, as well as firefighters, state ferry employees, and more, claiming that the governor’s mandate violates the state’s constitution. It asks that the court either vacate Inslee’s mandate entirely, or change the penalty for violating the order to something “fair and reasonable,” while allowing exceptions for those who can work from home, or who are regularly tested for COVID-19.

The attorneys who filed the lawsuit say there will be “several times the current numbers” of additional plaintiffs attached to the case by the end of the week as well.

As of Sept. 13, the Washington State Department of Health reports that over 75% of the eligible population (ages 12+) in the state had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 68% are fully vaccinated.

Gov. Inslee indicated last week that further vaccine requirements for select indoor businesses are “under active consideration,” citing increased rates of COVID cases and hospitalizations statewide. King County plans to enact similar requirements of its own in October.