1,887 WA workers fired, leave jobs due to vaccine mandate

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — More than 1,800 Washington state workers have been fired, resigned or retired due to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, according to data released Tuesday.

The latest numbers released by the governor’s Office of Financial Management show that about 3% of the state’s approximately 63,000-person workforce that was covered by the mandate have left their jobs, and the cases of another 4.6% — or 2,887 — are pending because they are either in the process of receiving a job accommodation, are planning to retire, are getting vaccinated or are awaiting separation from their agency.

Of the 1,887 who are no longer employed, 1,696 were fired, 112 resigned and 79 retired.

Of those who remain employed, the state said that 95% were vaccinated, not including the 1,927 who got either a medical or religious exemption and an accommodation to stay on the job.

Monday was the deadline for thousands of workers in Washington to prove they’ve been fully vaccinated as a condition of their continued employment. The mandate — issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August — applies to most state workers, long-term care employees, and teachers and staff at the state’s schools, including the state’s colleges and universities. The only opt-out was a medical or religious exemption, though the exemption only ensured continued employment if a job accommodation could be made.

Most state agencies saw separations, with the state’s Department of Transportation seeing the biggest loss of staff, with 462 leaving due to the mandate, according to the data released Tuesday. The next biggest loss of staff was seen at the Department of Corrections, at 429, including 308 separations among a dozen prisons. Losses topping 100 were seen in the Washington State Patrol and the Department of Social and Health Services.

The Washington State Patrol said Tuesday that 74 commissioned officers — 67 troopers, six sergeants and one captain — were among those who left the agency due to the mandate. Data from the Office of Financial Management shows in total, 127 people at the state patrol were fired, 15 resigned and 17 retired due to the mandate.

The agency employs approximately 2,200 people across the state.

“We will miss every one of them,” Chief John Batiste said in a statement.

Patrol officials said that the state will review staffing impacts and move resources as needed. They also noted that they would be recruiting for three new academy classes in the coming months.