Rantz: State Attorney General draft policy warns staff to get vaccinated or be fired
A new draft policy from the Washington Attorney General’s Office would require the department’s employees to be fully vaccinated and submit proof, or be summarily fired. Acquired by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, the policy would even apply if the AG’s Office maintains a telework option, according to a memo that accompanied the draft.
The draft memo effectively blames the vaccine mandate on disabled and/or religious staff for either being unable or unwilling to get vaccinated. The impetus around the mandate is to protect those staffers from COVID. Staff who fall into either category may seek accommodation, but it’s not guaranteed. Volunteers and office visitors must abide by the same policies.
The policy is just a draft and has neither been officially released nor approved. It could go through substantial edits, or none at all.
But the mandate is concerning to employees who think this is a dangerous government overreach and will spread to other agencies. The draft comes weeks after Governor Jay Inslee vowed not to compel vaccine passports at places of work. Instead, he would grant employees the option of wearing a mask.
Get vaccinated against COVID or get fired
Chief Deputy Shane Esquibel alerted AGO staff to the draft on July 20 ahead of staff returning to the office in mid-September. It said the policy is meant to provide for “the safest possible environment for our employees.” It is dated to start on Sept. 13.
The draft policy was emailed to staff for their input. In the policy statement of the memo, it lays out a plan:
As we return to in-person operations, we are particularly concerned with the health and safety of our employees and volunteers who are unable to receive the vaccine because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief. The best way to ensure the safety of these, and all, AGO employees and volunteers and the safety of the people they interact with in [sic] the course of their duties is to implement a policy requiring all AGO employees and volunteers, as a qualification of fitness for continued employment, and all visitors to AGO facilities to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof thereof before returning to or entering the office.
The draft allows employees, volunteers, or visitors to request an accommodation or modification. They must have either a disability or religious belief that conflicts with vaccination. But accommodation or modification requests are not guaranteed.
“Failure to meet this fitness for duty qualification will lead to termination of employment,” the draft warns.
Qualification of fitness for employment
The draft policy says current employees must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 13, the date to reopen offices to staff and the public. New hires must be vaccinated before their start date. The draft’s accompanying memo says you must be vaccinated even if the AGO continues its telework schedule.
If you have a sincere religious belief precluding vaccination, the draft policy mandates they “must participate in the interactive accommodation process and provide all information reasonably needed to evaluate the request.”
Anyone with a disability that prevents them from getting the vaccine “may request a reasonable accommodation as provided in AGO Policy I.43 Reasonable Accommodation of Persons with Disabilities.”
If an accommodation is granted, the employee must still wear a mask, even though vaccinated employees surround them.
Show the AG your papers
The draft policy mandates employees provide documentation proving their vaccination.
It demands a video conference call with a Division Chief or designee where staff shows proof. Human Resources would be required to maintain a system to track vaccination status. This is in line with requirements for other Washington businesses.
Visitors would not be allowed beyond the lobby without showing proof of vaccination under this policy.
“Proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 is a CDC vaccination card, documentation from a health care provider, or a state immunization information system record showing that the employee, volunteer, selected candidate, or visitor is fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” according to the draft.
Offices of AG Bob Ferguson and Jay Inslee weigh in — sort of
AG Bob Ferguson’s office did not respond to most questions posed about the draft policy.
A spokesperson for Ferguson did not explain if the Attorney General supports the policy as written. When asked if there is concern that the office could lose staff if they impose the mandate, no answer was provided. How does the fact that the FDA hasn’t fully approved the vaccines play into this draft? The spokesperson would not answer.
The office did, however, confirm they notified Inslee’s office and union partners of the policy. The spokesperson also noted that “we may have employees that are unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because of an ongoing illness or disability.”
Inslee’s office struck a dismissive and aggressively defensive tone in response to questions.
When asked if Inslee supported the policy in its draft form or if he believes the same mandate should apply to other offices (including his own), spokesperson Mike Faulk refused to answer.
Faulk claimed I didn’t read the policy (I did) and claimed my interpretation of the policy was wrong (it wasn’t). Instead, Faulk called my questions “irrelevant,” arguing the accommodations or modifications in the policy would not conflict with Inslee’s previous statements.
“This does not change or conflict with anything the governor has said previously,” Faulk emailed the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
Inslee’s office previously said the governor was not considering vaccine mandates. It appears he’s abandoned that position.
The governor also claimed he did not support vaccine passports, yet Washington state public universities mandate vaccinations for students and staff to return to the classroom. Inslee has also encouraged businesses to deny service to unvaccinated customers. And in the AG’s Office, if this policy is implemented as written, Inslee won’t condemn it.
Will this policy spread?
AGO staff may provide feedback on the policy before it’s finalized and implemented. But some believe this will be the final policy.
Meanwhile, rumors have already spread well beyond the AGO.
An employee with the Washington State Department of Health tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that two senior staffers told him that mandatory vaccinations would be required for all state workers.
Does Inslee support state agencies that mandate vaccines under threat of termination? Are there plans to implement a similar policy across all government agencies or his office? Inslee’s spokesperson refused to answer.
Inslee’s unwillingness to comment on whether or not the draft policy will extend to other departments could play into the rumors.
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