Vaccine mandate leads to state worker job losses

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The governor’s vaccine mandate withstood its first court challenge today, but there are more to come.

And one of the state’s top public safety officials now says he’ll likely leave Washington State.

Chuck LeBlanc has 32 years with the Washington State Patrol, the last 4 as State Fire Marshal.

Investigating fires is a job that involves public contact, so even though he has a medical exemption to the vaccine, State Patrol won’t let him work without it. So he’s been fired.

“I have a lot of mixed emotions, this  been a very difficult process to go through every step of the way. This has not been an easy road to go down,” he said in an interview with KIRO 7.

LeBlanc watched a Thurston County Judge deny the request he and roughly 600 other state workers made to put the governor’s mandate on hold.

“The court concludes that the proclamations at issue will likely be found to be a valid exercise of the governors police and emergency powers,” ruled Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy.

As a sign language interpreter in Tacoma Public Schools, Jeannie Kay also comes under the governor’s vaccine mandate. She’s now out of a job, too.

“This isn’t about my choice. This was about Inslee’s choice. I’m not taking responsibility for a very foolish decision of our Governor,” Kay said.

But it’s a decision the state sees differently.

“The far greater tragedy would be allowing healthcare workers for teachers and others who work very closely with sensitive groups… to allow them to interact with the public and endanger the public whom they’re supposed to serve,” said attorney Zach Pekelis Jones representing the state.

Despite today’s decision the state workers lawsuit will continue through the courts.

“This is a preliminary hearing. We were trying to keep folks in their jobs. We’re trying to keep them serving the public, but we’ll simply continue on with the case from here,” plaintiffs’ attorney Nathan Arnold.

Fire Marshal Chuck LeBlanc remains part of the case but likely from afar.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how we pick up the pieces as a family and move forward. It’s going to take some time. I think honestly, the best thing for me personally is to, to leave the state altogether.”

The state says that as of today, Monday, nearly 92% of state government employees have been vaccinated.