Opinion: Does the governor have the authority to order public employees to be vaccinated?

Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center offers a judge’s analysis on whether Gov. Jay Inslee has the legal authority to do what he is doing.
Gov. Jay Inslee. File photo.

Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center offers a judge’s analysis on whether Gov. Jay Inslee has the legal authority to do what he is doing

Paul Guppy
Washington Policy Center

In August Governor Jay Inslee, citing his emergency powers, announced that certain residents of Washington state are now subject to a mandatory COVID vaccine requirement. His order applies to “… all public employees, on-site contractors and on-site volunteers at all public and private K-12 schools, public and private two- and four-year institutions of higher education, and early learning and childcare programs serving children from multiple households.”

Paul Guppy, Washington Policy Center
Paul Guppy, Washington Policy Center

The Governor ordered that those covered by the mandate must comply by October 18, 2021 or face termination or other workplace sanctions.

In response, Judge David A. Larson, co-chair of the Council on Independent Courts, provided an analysis for state supreme court Chief Justice Steven C. Gonzalez and other judges on whether the Governor has the authority to impose this mandate and whether the courts should enforce the order. 

Key Findings

• 1. Judge David A. Larson recently wrote a legal analysis for other judges on whether Governor Inslee has the authority to impose a vaccine mandate on public employees, contractors and volunteers. This analysis was recently posted openly online.

• 2. The analysis concludes that the Governor’s emergency powers do not give him the authority to create laws, only to waive or suspend them.

• 3. There is also no law or regulation that conditions public employment on any form of vaccine or other medical procedure.

• 4. The Governor, judges or any other state or local officials cannot mandate vaccinations as a condition of employment because no law passed by the legislature has given them the authority to do so.

• 5. Terminating a public employee for not performing an act that the public employer has no authority to compel would be a problematic violation of due process.

• 6. Legal precedents call into question attempts by government entities to require proof of vaccination for continued employment, when there is no statutory or regulatory authority to do so.

• 7. The Supreme Court, the Governor, and all other government bodies need to reconsider vaccine mandates that are not permitted by law.

The complete analysis was posted openly online; a link to the text of it appears below.

Read the full Policy Note here.

Paul Guppy is the vice president for research at the Washington Policy Center.


  1. blank
    Thomas casey

    Jay Inslee has failed as a governor. His bad decisions, power grab, and gross overreach of authority have steered us into danger. And all of his crazy followers need to realize how these bad decisions have real world consequences.

  2. blank
    K.J. Hinton

    42 judges, to hear the AG tell it, have offered their opinions on Inslee’s orders, including the mandate.

    All of them have ruled for him. Legally, those are the only opinions that matter.

      1. blank

        and, if you read is “analysis”, which I don’t recommend because you will never get the time back, it consists of a very long quote from a case from 1905. This is a headline opinion based on no actual substance.

  3. blank

    Informed Choice Washington has posted information about Religious Exemptions to state recommendations:In Exec. Order No. 13798 § 4, 82 Fed. Reg. 21675 (May 4, 2017), the United States Attorney General wrote:
    The freedom of religion is a fundamental right of paramount importance, expressly protected by federal law.
    Religious liberty is enshrined in the text of our Constitution and in numerous federal statutes. It encompasses the right of all Americans to exercise their religion freely, without being coerced to join an established church or to satisfy a religious test as a qualification for public office. It also encompasses the right of all Americans to express their religious beliefs, subject to the same narrow limits that apply to all forms of speech. In the United States, the free exercise of religion is not a mere policy preference to be traded against other policy preferences. It is a fundamental right.
    The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.
    The Free Exercise Clause protects not just the right to believe or the right to worship; it protects the right to perform or abstain from performing certain physical acts in accordance with one’s beliefs. Federal statutes, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), support that protection, broadly defining the exercise of religion to encompass all aspects of observance and practice, whether or not central to, or required by, a particular religious faith.

    Exemptions to Vaccination for students in: Daycare, Preschool and K-12 GradesWA State law allows for medical, philosophical, and religious exemptions from state mandated vaccination requirements for daycare, preschool, and K-12. WA State Law: RCW 28A.210.090 Immunization program—Exemptions(NOTE: In the 2019 Legislative Session, EHB 1638 removed the personal-philosophical exemption to the MMR vaccine. The medical and religious exemptions remain for the MMR.)
    If you choose to exempt your child from one or more state-required vaccines for school or daycare attendance, you need to file a Certificate of Exemption with your school.
    ALSO NOTE: You may get your child’s blood checked for protective antibody titers for the infections targeted by the required vaccines. If the test(s) are positive, those results can be recorded by your child’s doctor on the Certificate of Immunization form, in lieu of vaccination.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *