Public Health – Seattle & King County staff administering COVID-19 vaccine to a local emergency responder. COURTESY PHOTO, Public Health-Seattle & King County

Public Health – Seattle & King County staff administering COVID-19 vaccine to a local emergency responder. COURTESY PHOTO, Public Health-Seattle & King County

King County wants to rehire employees who were fired over vaccine

A total of 314 employees separated from King County as a result of the mandate, with eight retiring, 25 resigning, and 281 fired as a result of noncompliance.

A King County Council committee on July 19 discussed a motion tasking the county with prioritizing the rehiring of employees fired and separated as a result of noncompliance with COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

A total of 314 employees separated from the county as a result of the mandate, with eight retiring, 25 resigning, and 281 fired as a result of noncompliance.

Councilmember Reagan Dunn sponsored the proposed motion, requesting the creation of a priority pathway for job applicants previously employed with King County who were separated as a result of noncompliance with the mandate.

The King County Executive issued an executive order on Sept. 22, 2021, requiring all executive branch employees to fully vaccinate against COVID-19. The county provided accommodations to the vaccine mandate for employees entitled legally to a disability-related reasonable accommodation and for employees with a sincerely held religious belief accommodation.

The King County Executive rescinded the vaccine mandate on Feb. 6, 2023.

County departments have faced vacancies and recruitment challenges, with approximately 2,143 vacant full time positions across departments that separated employees as a result of noncompliance as of a March 31 vacancy report, according to council documents.

According to council documents, the Metro Transit Department, King County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Health, Department of Public Defense, and Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention have faced the greatest difficulties in terms of vacancies.

The committee heard public comment from former King County law enforcement employees separated from the county as a result of noncompliance with a COVID-19 mandate requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of employment.

“Now, I certainly got my COVID shot before it was mandated, and I felt it was important to do so,” said Randy Weaver, King County and Corrections Guild Sergeant. “… We still have a 20% vacancy rate. We still are impacted by large amounts of mandatory overtime. If this helps us just get a couple of our experienced employees back, it helps us. Not only does it tell someone we value their … years of experience — bringing them back where they left off — that also tells employees still working here that we value you.”

Andy Conner of the King County Sheriff’s Office said King County administration said King County administration promised him reinstatement to his previous position immediately on the condition that he vaccinate against COVID-19.

After Feb. 6, after the lifting of the mandate, Conner said King County administration rescinded the offer.

“I was told that the previous promise of immediate reinstatement was no longer available to me … nor anyone else, and that I would have to apply just like anybody else, disregarding my 24 years of service … in King County,” Conner said.

Councilmembers Dunn and Claudia Balducci expressed views on the motion in discussion.

“I appreciated hearing from the individuals and their personal experiences,” Balducci said. “If you come back and speak to us again, I would love to hear one word about our obligation to the public. I didn’t hear one word about our commitment to the people we serve and keeping them safe. I heard only about the impact on the employees. We are here with a mission.”

Dunn said he aimed to quickly staff up the King County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Corrections.

“I think some of the information we just heard was dramatic minimization of the scope of the problem with a hundred correctional officers and a hundred law enforcement gone during record crimes,”

The council deferred the matter for future discussion.

According to budget director Dwight Dively, the sheriff’s office sits at 99 vacancies for sheriff’s deputies and approximately 100 vacancies for corrections officers.”

“We’re at least two years away from having a normal amount of vacancies in the (Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention) and sheriff’s office,” Dively said.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

t
Man identified who died of medical emergency in Kent while driving car

King County Medical Examiner’s Office rules death of natural causes in 132nd Avenue SE crash

t
Man, 29, fatally shot on Metro bus in Kent identified

No charges filed against shooter who reportedly acted in self-defense

t
Aegis Living Kent earns Joint Commission memory care certification

Program designed to enhance the care of residents who suffer from memory-impacting conditions

t
New Puget Sound Fire engines to hit Kent streets | Photos

Kent will get four new vehicles for East Hill, city of SeaTac one

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO
Discarded cigarette leads to arrest of Kent double homicide suspects

DNA reveals man, woman who reportedly killed two people in January 2023 at local motel

t
State Patrol chief thanks public for support of trooper shot in Kent

Trooper’s injuries are not life threatening despite being shot multiple times

t
Boy, 17, fatally shot in Kent in exchange of gunfire identified | Update

Shooting between subjects in vehicles Feb. 20 along East Valley Highway near South 180th Street

Car damaged by bullets during Feb. 19 Interstate 5 shooting. (Courtesy of Washington State Patrol)
King County Councilmember wants more info about I-5 shootings

The letter, addressed to WSP Chief John R. Batiste, comes in wake of a Feb. 19 drive-by shooting that occurred on I-5 in Tukwila that left a victim in critical condition.

t
Kent man, 83, dies after medical emergency while driving on East Hill

Reportedly died from medical issue prior to single-car crash Feb. 2o along 132nd Avenue SE

Rep. Mia Gregerson. COURTESY PHOTO, Legislative Support Services
Gregerson state bill aims to improve immigration support

Designed to better address needs of refugees, immigrants arriving in Washington state

t
Federal Way man faces charges for shooting, injuring trooper in Kent

Trooper reportedly shot nine times Feb. 16 after a struggle following foot pursuit

Courtesy image, U.S. Department of Justice
Kent man pleads guilty to selling guns to those with criminal histories

Sold more than 100 firearms to those barred from possessing guns