Rantz: All COVID vaccine religious accommodation requests rejected by Washington State Patrol

Sep 15, 2021, 5:20 PM | Updated: Sep 16, 2021, 5:30 am
religious accommodation...
Washington State Patrol has terminated the employment of over 100 workers over the state's vaccine mandate. (WSP)

The Washington State Patrol has rejected every single religious accommodation request it has reviewed so far. The only way out of Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate is religious or medical accommodation. But the state has purposefully made it impossible to receive a religious accommodation.

The WSP confirms it has received 373 religious exemption requests. The department has so far reviewed 284 of those requests. Each one has been denied accommodation. It’s not the only agency doing this.

Other state agencies routinely approve religious exemptions. However, the agencies then inform the staff member that their accommodation request is denied or suggest the employee apply for a transfer to a lesser paying job. But the state denies that this is their policy.

All WSP employees rejected so far

The rejection applies to both commissioned and civil service employees. Of the total 373 exemption requests, 50 civil service and 30 commission requests are pending. Nine rescinded their requests.

WSP claims there are “no practical accommodations” that have been found to date. But this is, of course, a lie. The WSP accommodated all of these employees for nearly two years. Troopers, for example, have used personal protective equipment to do their jobs safely.

However, WSP claims it’s more dangerous for these employees to work without a vaccine, even though the state has exceeded a 70% vaccination rate. Last year, that rate was nonexistent — when it was apparently safer to work.

When asked why it was safe last year but not this year, WSP spokesperson Chris Loftis demurred.

“As to your inquiry regarding relative exposure probabilities, I would suggest you direct it to qualified epidemiologists but from my laymen’s perspective, it presupposes that lower or varied risks is somehow unworthy of attention. As we have all seen, the pandemic, it’s [sic] impacts, and response strategies have evolved over time as more has become known,” Loftis explained to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Are these rejections official policy?

If these employees do not violate their sincerely held religious beliefs, Inslee says they will be terminated.

Loftis insists there is no policy to accept religious exemptions but reject offering accommodations. He says the WSP considers each exemption individually.

“Per EEOC and Labor and Industry guidelines, we look for job classifications with no contact with the public or other WSP personnel,” Loftis tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “However, the search for accommodation can be difficult as by its very nature, working for WSP often has a significant public engagement component of service. Those with job classes within an office or open air cubicle environment are also not appropriate. If no accommodation can be made due to job classification or an offered accommodation or reassignment is not accepted by the employee, separation from employment may occur.”

It strains credulity to believe it’s not official or unofficial policy to reject these requests. If, for example, the WSP believes no trooper position can be accommodated, then it’s policy to reject them.

And other agencies are doing the same thing — more on that to come — but Inslee’s office says there is no statewide policy. Individual departments handle the exemptions on their own.

Inslee’s office previously called report ‘fake’ news

This news is not necessarily a shock.

Captains with the WSP previously sent an email to troopers saying they would not be accommodated. I reported that story on Sept. 3.

“At this time, it has been confirmed that for any public-facing position, there are limited accommodations available,” the email reads, and that “there is no accommodation we can provide for their religious exemption requests.”

Inslee’s office, through spokesperson Mike Faulk, dismissed the story. On his personal Twitter account, he called my story that morning “fake.”

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM, HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: All COVID vaccine religious accommodation requests rejected by Washington State Patrol