Governor Jay Inslee held a press conference earlier this month to take executive action to require all K–12 and Higher Education employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment.
Please see below for the most current statement approved by PSE's Executive Board, and additional guidance/FAQ for all PSE members.
"PSE always has been, and always will be, on the side of public health and safety. When the COVID-19 vaccine became available earlier this year, our union secured a partnership with Safeway and Albertsons Pharmacies that gave school employees an exclusive opportunity to secure a priority vaccination appointment. Our members have also advocated for increased access to PPE, enforced public health policies, and ensured continued services for our students and communities during this time of crisis.
However, some Education Support Professionals are left with fear and doubt while facing the prospect of potentially losing employment if they are unable to take the vaccine. Just as you can't operate a school bus without a driver, we can't hit the road while leaving workers behind who did so much for our communities during the pandemic.
PSE will continue fighting for our members by bargaining the impacts of the mandate to ensure staffing levels are maintained and a process/protections are in place for those in need of religious or medical exemptions. The continued operation of Washington’s schools and the health and safety of all staff and students will always be our top priority."
Click here to take our short survey, and have your voice heard on whether you are going to take the vaccine, or if you are already vaccinated.
Here is the timeline for receiving the vaccine to be in compliance with the Governor's mandate:
Please read the FAQ below carefully for facts about the law/mandate, exemptions, what limited impacts we may be able to bargain, retirement, and unemployment.
We know that you have questions and concerns; it is important to remember that information is still coming in and details are changing rapidly. Click here for the most up-to-date guidance from the Washington State Department of Health.
A law and a mandate have the same power to be enforced. A law is passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. A mandate is made by the Governor, with the power given to them by the Legislature in a state of emergency. Overall, a mandate has the same effect as a law.
No property interest in public employment
A public employee does not have a “property interest” in their public employment. What that means is that no one has a constitutional right to be employed by a public university or school district and cannot claim they are being deprived of any “right” to employment because of the mandate.
Mandatory and illegal subjects of bargaining definition
PSE has the right to bargain “mandatory subjects of bargaining” which include “hours, wages and working conditions.” Prior to any vaccine mandate, that could have included vaccination and other safety measures. The mandate changes that: we cannot “bargain away” any mandate regarding the vaccine that is issued by the Governor. It would be an illegal subject of bargaining to bargain an agreement that would violate the mandate. Insisting on bargaining an illegal subject of bargaining is an unfair labor practice.
Bargaining the impact could include tentatively agreeing to:
Where and how documents like vaccine cards and medical/religious exemptions are documented and stored.
Paid time separate from your personal leave banks to follow the law/mandate.
What are the parameters if you are not vaccinated, how much time can be granted beyond the official vaccination mandate date, the structure of a re-employment list.
An exemption whether it be medical or religious is an ask for a reasonable accommodation. If the accommodation is granted the following may be required:
If you can attend work in-person, you will be expected to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), CDC and DOH will set all requirements for PPE and social distancing.
If you cannot attend work in-person and your work can be completed from home (determined by the employer), the employer may accommodate this ask.
Should the accommodation create an undue hardship on the employer the accommodation to work from home may be denied.
- The only statutory limitation on an employer's obligation to provide "reasonable accommodation" is that no such change or modification is required if it would cause "undue hardship" to the employer. "Undue hardship" means significant difficulty or expense and focuses on the resources and circumstances of the particular employer in relationship to the cost or difficulty of providing a specific accommodation. Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. An employer must assess on a case-by-case basis whether a particular reasonable accommodation would cause undue hardship. The ADA's "undue hardship" standard is different from that applied by courts under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for religious accommodation.
You will not lose your retirement should you separate employment due to the vaccine mandate. The following options will apply:
- Leave your contributions in your retirement plan. Accrued money continues to gain interest and will be available at retirement.
- If you return to an eligible position with a DRS-participating employer, you will resume your contributions and your service credits and the money you contributed will carry forward. You can buy back the service credits lost if you so choose.
- Transfer or roll over the funds to a qualified tax-deferred retirement account, e.g., an IRA. Note: You will lose your service credits if you were to return to public employment.
- Withdraw your contributions, subject to penalties and taxes. Note: You will lose your service credits.
PSE believes employees discharged for not complying with this mandate would not be entitled to unemployment insurance. However, we encourage employees to file for unemployment if you believe you may be entitled due to additional factors.
If you have further questions or concerns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.