Governor updates vulnerable worker protections

200729 updated proclamation

On July 29, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee updated the procla­ma­tion that provides protec­tions for vulner­able workers and extended it through the duration of the current state of emergency.

The procla­ma­tion says that workers who are vulner­able to COVID-19 due to age or certain health condi­tions as defined by CDC must be given safe accom­mo­da­tion at work and if this is not possible, then they can stay home, collect unemploy­ment, the employer must maintain health benefits, and the job must be avail­able to the vulner­able employee when COVID-19 condi­tions have improved to make it safe to return to work. This is spelled out in the under­lying, original vulner­able workers procla­ma­tion signed by the Governor on April 13, 2020:

  1. Employers are prohib­ited from failing to utilize all avail­able options for alter­na­tive work assign­ments to protect high-risk employees, if requested, from exposure to the COVID-19 disease, including but not limited to telework, alter­na­tive or remote work locations, reassign­ment, and social distancing measures; and
  2. Employers are prohib­ited from failing to permit any high-risk employee in a situa­tion where an alter­na­tive work arrange­ment is not feasible to use any avail­able employer granted accrued leave or unemploy­ment insur­ance in any sequence at the discre­tion of the employee; and
  3. In the event the employee’s paid time off exhausts during the period of leave, employers are prohib­ited from failing to fully maintain all employer-related health insur­ance benefits until the employee is deemed eligible to return to work; and
  4. Employers are prohib­ited from taking adverse employ­ment action against an employee for exercising their rights under this Procla­ma­tion that would result in loss of the employee’s current employ­ment position by perma­nent replacement.

Under the updated procla­ma­tion, these protec­tions are extended to:

a) Employees who are 65 years or older;
b) Employees whose condi­tions are listed by the CDC under the at increased risk” category; and
c) Employees whose condi­tions are listed by the CDC under the might be at increased risk” category, but only if, based on the employee’s medical circum­stances and workplace condi­tions, the employee is, in fact, at increased risk for suffering severe illness from COVID-19.

C” above is new from earlier versions of the procla­ma­tion based on updates by CDC.

Employers must not require verifi­ca­tion from a medical provider when the employee either is 65 years or older (“a” above) or falls within the at increased risk” category (“b” above).

However, for employees who fall within the might be at increased risk” category, employers may require verifi­ca­tion from a medical provider when the employee either falls within the might be at an increased risk” category or seeks to use any leave where a state or federal law, collec­tive bargaining agree­ment, or contrac­tual oblig­a­tion separately requires verifi­ca­tion.

These details are further spelled out in a very clear memo from the Governor that supple­ments the updated procla­ma­tion.

If you have questions about how the updated Governor’s procla­ma­tion may be applied in your facility, please contact your Nurse Representative.