Judge denies request to halt vaccine mandate for Washington state employees

A federal judge has denied a request to halt Washington’s vaccine mandate for state workers ahead of an Oct. 18 deadline.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 105 state and city employees, including workers from the Seattle Fire Department, the Bellingham Fire Department, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the state Department of Corrections, Washington State Patrol, and more.

It claimed that the state conducted an “unconstitutional application” of the vaccine mandate by “categorically” denying accommodations for religious and medical exemptions, which had allegedly included the state offering temporary unpaid leave until workers could “return to work vaccinated.”

It further alleged that the state’s mandate resulted in the “disproportionate dismissal of people of color from civil service and health care” roles.

“Given the State’s own data, the Governor, and his subordinates acted with, at minimum, reckless and callous indifference to this reality,” the lawsuit reads.

On Friday, the case went before U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein, who “denied an attempt to halt Gov. Inslee’s vaccine mandate,” according to state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“We successfully defended Governor Inslee’s vaccine policy that ensures a safe and health work environment for all state employees,” Ferguson said on Twitter. “We have successfully defended the Governor’s orders against 42 legal challenges. Our office remains undefeated in these challenges to the Governor’s public health measures.”

Gov. Inslee’s office recently estimated that roughly 90% of state employees have submitted their proof of vaccination. Those who remain unvaccinated while not operating under select union exceptions agreed to by the state could be fired at the start of the next week.