House Bill 1029 aims to reemploy workers forced out of jobs for lack of a COVID-19 vaccination


Rehire state employees who were fired because of the state’s vaccine mandate? Yes, please. 

House Bill 1029, which was prefiled on Dec. 12 by Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen, R-Puyallup, concerns the reemployment of state workers dismissed from employment due to vaccine mandates. Should it receive legislative consideration and support, it could help bring some of the healing balm our state needs after Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate left thousands of people in its wake. 

The bill says that the governor’s proclamations making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment within executive branch agencies “created unnecessary hardship for many state employees. In addition, not allowing qualified, experienced employees to work in their professions does nothing to benefit the state, especially during this time of worker shortages.” 

It continues, “The Legislature intends to create a pathway for those employees to be reemployed in their former positions if they choose. It is also the intent of the Legislature to encourage local governments and private sector employers to create pathways to reemploy employees who have lost their jobs due solely to vaccine mandates.” The bill reasonably lays out circumstances in which the state would not have to rehire a worker, and it does not say anything about back pay. 

It’s not clear to me how this bill would work on its own, given the governor’s permanent vaccine mandate proclaimed last summer. Rules for the permanent vaccine mandate were made by the Office of Financial Management in the fall. They were adopted by OFM Director David Schumacher and became effective Nov. 4.

The Legislature needs to be sure to try and remove that misguided and outdated employment standard, along with reemploying those who lost their jobs during the state of emergency. Hindering the state by excluding qualified prospective employees with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate isn't wise 

HB 1029 would be good for improving state service levels expected by taxpayers. More importantly, it would restore some of the livelihoods that were taken away unnecessarily. It might even help knock out some of the ill will the government created toward those who chose not to be vaccinated, because of various assessments of risk factors and/or doctor-patient decisions. 

The state mistreated its unvaccinated workers. A vaccinated worker who is still employed can contract and spread COVID-19, while an unvaccinated worker might not. The vaccine mandate also applies to working-age people, not the elderly —  the people most often getting sick and dying from or with COVID-19. That nullifies the argument some shifted to once it became clear unvaccinated and vaccinated people could contract and spread the disease  After that was well known, Inslee reasoned that the vaccine mandate served to protect state health resources. 

We’ll follow HB 1029 this legislative session. I’m hopeful this bill and others will ensure lawmakers openly discuss how the mandate brings no demonstrable public health benefit while taking away people’s livelihoods and harming state services.

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