WSDOT overwhelmingly denied accommodations to staff with approved religious exemptions

Mariya Frost of the Washington Policy Center provides insight of WSDOT’s actions to be in compliance with the governor’s vaccine mandate


Mariya Frost
Washington Policy Center

On October 18, 2021, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) fired 402 employees in compliance with the governor’s vaccine mandate.

Mariya Frost of the Washington Policy Center provides insight of WSDOT’s actions to be in compliance with the governor’s vaccine mandate.

Many employees submitted religious and medical exemptions to the vaccine, yet the vast majority of those whose exemptions were approved were fired anyway on the basis that the agency said they could not “accommodate” them. Accommodation simply means an adjustment to the work environment that allows an employee to continue working. For some, this two-step process of having an exemption approved only to be denied accommodation later felt like an underhanded way for the state to deny an exemption request without actually denying it up front.

There should be no difference in the state’s ability to accommodate employees in the same job class based solely on the reason for an exemption. Once the exemptions are approved – according to WSDOT, accommodations are subject to approval “based on the essential functions required of the position” – not based on whether the exemption was medical or religious.

Mariya Frost
Mariya Frost

So, if the state can accommodate someone with an approved medical exemption, they should be able to offer the same accommodation to someone with an approved religious exemption who is in the same position with the same essential functions.

Yet the data we received suggest that the state treated exemptions very differently, appearing to discriminate against people with approved religious exemptions – leaving ferries, road crews, and other positions short-staffed.

Overall, WSDOT officials did grant accommodations to some employees with religious exemptions – a total of 11 percent according to their data. They granted accommodations to a much higher 87 percent of employees with approved medical exemptions.  

A closer look, as illustrated in the examples below, shows this difference is more significant within each job classification. (The full database can be found here.)

For example, all but one of the able seamen for Washington State Ferries (WSF) with approved medical exemptions were accommodated (83 percent approval). Those with religious exemptions were all denied accommodation despite having the same job classification.

Similarly, bridge maintenance specialists (and leads) at WSF who had approved medical exemptions were all accommodated. Those who had approved religious exemptions were all denied accommodation.

Oilers at WSF who had approved medical exemptions were all accommodated. Those who had approved religious exemptions were all denied accommodation.

Transportation systems technicians (classifications B, C, and D) who had approved medical exemptions were all accommodated. Those who had approved religious exemptions were all denied accommodation.  

We looked at a few other job classifications that had a comparatively large number of exemptions.

The biggest category was highway maintenance workers (1, 2 and 3) – a total of 130 approved exemptions. These are some of the employees WSDOT sorely needed going into the winter season. WSDOT officials accommodated 79% of employees with approved medical exemptions and denied accommodation to all 91 employees with approved religious exemptions.  

For transportation engineers (1 through 5), WSDOT officials accommodated 94% of those with approved medical exemptions and 19% of those with approved religious exemptions.

For transportation technicians (1, 2 and 3), WSDOT officials accommodated 75% of those with approved medical exemptions (3 of 4 total) and 5% of those with approved religious exemptions (1 of 20).

Interestingly, WSDOT’s Human Resource Consultants (1 through 4) who had approved religious exemptions were all accommodated.

The extraordinarily low rates of accommodation for approved religious exemptions are unsurprising given the Governor’s office stating in August when the vaccine mandate was first being developed that they would accept “medical for sure; and religious (if we have to; if yes as narrow as possible).”

Mariya Frost is the director of the Coles Center for Transportation at the Washington Policy Center. 

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Margaret
Margaret
9 months ago

WA residents who were denied a religious exemption may want to seek help to insure religious freedoms and rights are upheld.
PacificJustice.org has been defending religious liberties in the US for years.
Many are appealing to a Higher Authority for mercy and grace as their jobs and retirement benefits have been unjustly taken from them.

InformedChoiceWA.org has compiled some resources residents seeking exemptions to unfair mandates may find helpful.

Margaret
Margaret
9 months ago
Reply to  Margaret

The expanded Aug. 20 vaccine mandate proclamation was made when all the COVID vaccines offered in WA were Emergency Use Authorization products. EUA products are still being used for vaccination injections today. EUA products are usually optional, not mandatory.

Pfizer EUA statement FACT SHEET FOR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS ADMINISTERING VACCINE (VACCINATION PROVIDERS) EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION (EUA) OF THE PFIZER-BIONTECH COVID-19 VACCINE see full statement https://www.fda.gov/media/153713/download Revised: 31 January 2022 excerpts:

“Myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported following administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.”
“Postmarketing data demonstrate increased risks of myocarditis and pericarditis, particularly within 7 days following the second dose. The observed risk is higher among males under 40 years of age than among females and older males. The observed risk is highest in males 12 through 17 years of age.”
 
Severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, and other hypersensitivity reactions (e.g., rash, pruritus, urticaria, angioedema), diarrhea, vomiting, pain in extremity (arm), and syncope have been reported following administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.”
 
“Additional adverse reactions, some of which may be serious, may become apparent with more widespread use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.” 
FDA has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, which is not an FDA-approved vaccine.  The recipient or their caregiver has the option to accept or refuse Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.  The significant known and potential risks and benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and the extent to which such risks and benefits are unknown.

Moderna EUA statement Revised: Jan/31/2022excerpts
FDA has authorized the emergency use of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, which is not an FDA-approved vaccine. • The recipient or their caregiver has the option to accept or refuse the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. • The significant known and potential risks and benefits of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, and the extent to which such risks and benefits are unknown.
Myocarditis and Pericarditis Postmarketing data demonstrate increased risks of myocarditis and pericarditis, particularly within 7 days following the second dose. The observed risk is higher among males under 40 years of age than among females and older males. The observed risk is highest in males 18 through 24 years of age.
Anaphylaxis and other severe allergic reactions, myocarditis, pericarditis, and syncope have been reported following administration of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine during mass vaccination outside of clinical trials. Additional adverse reactions, some of which may be serious, may become apparent with more widespread use of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
See full statement https://www.fda.gov/media/144637/download

J&J EUA statement Revised: JAN/31/2022excerpts
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF THE JANSSEN COVID-19 VACCINE? Side effects that have been reported with the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine include:  Injection site reactions: pain, redness of the skin and swelling.  General side effects: headache, feeling very tired, muscle aches, nausea, and fever.  Swollen lymph nodes.  Blood clots.  Unusual feeling in the skin (such as tingling or a crawling feeling) (paresthesia), decreased feeling or sensitivity, especially in the skin (hypoesthesia).  Persistent ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. For this reason, your vaccination provider may ask you to stay at the place where you received your vaccine for monitoring after vaccination. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include:  Difficulty breathing,  Swelling of your face and throat,  A fast heartbeat,  A bad rash all over your body,  Dizziness and weakness.
Blood Clots with Low Levels of Platelets Blood clots involving blood vessels in the brain, lungs, abdomen, and legs along with low levels of platelets (blood cells that help your body stop bleeding), have occurred in some people who have received the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. In people who developed these blood clots and low levels of platelets, symptoms began approximately one to two weeks after vaccination. Blood clots with low levels of platelets following the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine have been reported in males and females, across a wide age range of individuals 18 years and older; reporting has been highest in females ages 30 through 49 years (about 1 case for every 100,000 vaccine doses administered), and about 1 out of every 7 cases has been fatal. You should seek medical attention right away if you have any of the following symptoms after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine:  Shortness of breath,  Chest pain,  Leg swelling,  Persistent abdominal pain,  Severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision,  Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection. Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) is a disorder that can cause easy or excessive bruising and bleeding due to very low levels of platelets. ITP has occurred in some people who have received the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. In most of these people, symptoms began within 42 days following receipt of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. If you have ever had a diagnosis of ITP, talk to your vaccination provider before you get the Janssen COVID4 19 Vaccine. You should seek medical attention right away if you develop any of the following symptoms after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine:  Easy or excessive bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection,  Unusual or excessive bleeding.
Guillain Barré Syndrome (a neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis) has occurred in some people who have received the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. In most of these people, symptoms began within 42 days following receipt of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. You should seek medical attention right away if you develop any of the following symptoms after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine:  Weakness or tingling sensations, especially in the legs or arms, that’s worsening and spreading to other parts of the body.  Difficulty walking.  Difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing, or swallowing.  Double vision or inability to move eyes.  Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function.
These may not be all the possible side effects of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. Serious and unexpected effects may occur. The Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is still being studied in clinical trials.
WHAT IF I DECIDE NOT TO GET THE JANSSEN COVID-19 VACCINE? It is your choice to receive or not receive the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. Should you decide not to receive it, it will not change your standard medical care.
See full statement https://www.fda.gov/media/146305/download

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