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:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.