Questions surround vaccine exemptions for civil servants | Roegner
With around 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, representing 8% of all state employees, and with the list growing, oversight of claims is in question.
Under federal and state laws, employers can require employees to be vaccinated as long as they allow exemptions for health and religious reasons. President Joe Biden has ordered federal workers and federal contractors as well as private companies with more than 100 employees to get vaccinated or tested every week, which will include an additional 80 million workers. Each person requesting an exemption will be interviewed and asked to complete a questionnaire. The questions are: “Has the applicant ever received any vaccine or medication from a health care provider as an adult?” ”
The same process will be followed with private sector employers. Only medical disabilities and religious exemptions will be considered. Political and philosophical disagreements will not be taken into account. Medical requests for exemption must be accompanied by a physician’s statement, and religious requests must meet a test of “sincere belief” through practice or observance – and is already proving to be more nuanced and more difficult to determine. for employers as able-bodied.
However, even if the application passes this test, there must be “reasonable accommodation” which would not impose undue hardship on employers. If applicants cannot be accommodated without disrupting essential job duties, they may still face a release from their job, according to the governor’s office, because the person looking for housing does not have the right to disrupt the workplace. Not all claims can be honored and, according to reports, a health issue has been ranked above religious belief by the courts. The state superintendent’s office says school districts will have complete authority over decisions about religious accommodation.
Even with built-in safeguards, resistance to orders sparked protests in Olympia among state employees, the Washington State Patrol and other local government employees, some of whom have taken legal action against Governor Jay Inslee. The state patrol has 2,300 employees, half of whom are officers and the other half civilians, and has received 373 requests for religious exemptions. But no accommodation was found. They received 22 requests for medical exemptions, with 80 requests still under review.
The Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS) is one of the largest state agencies with about 9,850 employees and about half are vaccinated. Recently, an “illness” of Seattle City Light employees and state ferry employees did not materialize.
Oregon state employees are also reacting in the same way that hundreds of people gathered in Salem, the state capital, to protest Governor Kate Brown’s vaccine and mask warrants. The protesters identified themselves as teachers, healthcare workers and emergency service workers. Political motivation is part of the equation, and the rally was organized by Oregonians for Medical Freedom, a political action committee that works to protect vaccine exemptions.
But it seems the political motivation is more evident in Washington. The Tacoma News Tribune investigated a group called “One Washington,” which is a nonprofit organization formed in March that conducts workshops in churches in Washington and Oregon where participants receive counseling and guidance on how to escape vaccination mandates. Participants said the crowds were mostly unmasked and seated close to each other. One of the co-chairs is Thomas Jonez, who is a volunteer state patrol chaplain and, according to the TNT report, is a former owner of a closed vocational school who allegedly left hundreds of students with worthless degrees. .
Representative of the Republican State. Jesse Young was one of the speakers, and the Pierce County Republican Party encouraged subscribers to sign up. Republican State Senators Chris Gildon and Jim McCune, State Representative Cyndy Jacobsen and Pierce County Council Member Amy Cruver also attended. Expect Young to run for a senior position next year.
Jonez said the workshops included step-by-step instructions for requesting a religious exemption, including how to complete the employee questionnaire. With thousands of people seeking exemptions, it’s no surprise to see questionable politics and training surfacing as a way to garner political support. The mandates for vaccinations and masks have become Democrats, and opposition to vaccines and masks has become Republican.
The most controversial unvaccinated public figure is not a politician, but Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich, who is also the highest paid state employee . Rolovich has so far refused to answer questions about his opposition to the vaccine, and his two bosses – WSU president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun – are pro-vaccine. Rolovich has received criticism from alumni regarding his need to be a role model for the young men he trains. But neither boss can comment on Rolovich or anyone else because the vaccine is considered medical and confidential. We’ll have to see what happens to Rolovich in October.
With only 53% of U.S. residents fully vaccinated, but an additional 75 to 80 million people unvaccinated, more pressure is expected from President Biden.
Biden was originally seeking voluntary cooperation, but given the political dynamics, this was not achieved. It is clear that his patience is dwindling. The Department of Transportation will double the fine for those who refuse to wear masks on airlines or cause disruption on planes.
Biden called on those who prioritize political gain over security when he said, referring to governors in the South, that if those governors didn’t help us beat the pandemic, he would use his power as president to put them in the spotlight. difference.
In what may become our future, the Los Angeles Board of Education recently voted to require students aged 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It is the second largest school district in the country, and more districts are expected to follow as California is often a testing ground for new ideas. With the political dynamics at play, we can hear a lot more about exemptions and questionable demands.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact [email protected]