Washington Protections for High Risk Employees – Extended Indefinitely

Back in April, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-46 (P 20-46) which adopted protections for  public and private sector workers in high-risk categories from the significant life, health and safety risks of COVID-19. 20-46 – COVID-19 High Risk Employees. P 20-46 was set to expire on June 1, 2020, and provides that:

  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 P 20-46 that would result in loss of the employee’s current employment position by permanent replacement.

P 20-46 also prohibits public and private employers in Washington State and labor unions representing employees in Washington State from applying or enforcing any employment contract provisions that contradict or otherwise interfere with the above listed prohibitions.

On June 9, 2020, the protections of P 20-46 were extended from June 1, 2020 to August 1, 2020. On July 29, 2020, the protections were extended through the duration of the current state of emergency  (which began on February 29, 2020) or until otherwise rescinded or amended. In addition, on June 29, 2020, the Governor clarified that, for purposes of P 20-46, as extended, the CDC’s definition of “high risk employee,” as modified by the Governor’s Memo on High-Risk Workers, should be used.  The Governor’s Memo is here: Memo on High Risk Worker Proclamation


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