Some Workers in Washington State Are Fighting Vaccine Mandates

A proclamation signed by Governor Jay Inslee mandates that broad swaths of workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18th in order to keep their jobs. The proclamation includes most long-term care and health providers, and all K-12 education, childcare, college and state employees. The governor states that his authority lies within his February 2020 declared state of emergency due to COVID-19. According to the governor, he then has broad authority under that state of emergency to protect the health and safety of those he governs.

Some workers who are in danger of losing their job are fighting back. They have filed a lawsuit stating that the governor has overstepped his authority, and that he cannot force people to get vaccinated as a condition of employment. Among other claims, the lawyers for the state workers who signed on to the action say that the vaccine mandate for workers violates the 14th amendment. Among other things, that amendment says that the state can’t make and enforce laws that unduly affect people’s rights as citizens. To these workers, a vaccine mandate does just that.

The lawsuit also challenges the lack of religious and medical exemptions built into the governor’s proclamation, and a subsequent letter sent by the Spokane Fire Chief that the city would not make such exemptions. According to a letter sent to employers, this decision was based on the city’s ability to protect the health and safety of others who work with the unvaccinated.

In total, the lawsuit gives eleven reasons why the mandate is unlawful. It seeks monetary damages for the violation of federal law they see through the mandate, continued employment without vaccination, and repayment for attorney and court costs. The lawsuit is funded by a non-profit organization called the Washington Citizens for Liberty. It names not only the governor, but other government officials such as the Secretaries of the Departments of Transportation and Social and Health Services.

While the lawsuit is still in its early stages, it is one of many filed by workers across the country who believe that governors overstep their bounds when they put vaccine employment mandates in place.