More than 50 employees of the King County Sheriff’s Office have retired, resigned or been fired because they refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the sheriff’s office.
Acting Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall and Legal Counsel Erin Overbey briefed King County Council on the effects of the COVID-19 mandate on May 10.
The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for King County executive staff issued Aug. 10, 2021, required staff to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, 2021, unless they received a religious or medical exemption, said Cole-Tindall.
After the warrant was announced, 81 sheriff’s office employees applied for religious exemptions and 17 applied for medical exemptions, Overbey said. The county granted 84 exemptions and denied five, while only three employees were granted housing and 86 were denied, according to the sheriff’s office.
The only employees who received accommodations were those who could perform 100% of their tasks remotely, Overbey said. That means staff who need to interact in person with the public or other staff were not given accommodations, Overbey said.
Some employees quit before a decision was made on their exemption, Overbey said. After the accommodations were made, 27 commissioned employees and six professional employees were terminated. In addition to this, 20 commissioned employees and two professional employees chose to retire or resign.
“We actually lost, unfortunately, a lot of people in this process,” Overbey said.
There are currently 113 commissioned employee vacancies and 59 professional vacancies in the King County Sheriff’s Office. The COVID-19 mandate represents approximately 31% of the total vacancies.
The King County Sheriff’s Office had the highest percentage of employees fired due to lack of vaccinations of any department in King County, according to the King County Executive Office. About 4.6% of sheriff’s office employees were fired because they weren’t vaccinated.
Cole-Tindall said that before the vaccine mandate, there were still a large number of vacancies caused by several factors, including the fact that a large number of employees were eligible to retire at around the same time. .
The sheriff’s office devotes a lot of resources to hiring new employees, including signing bonuses of $15,000 for lateral hires of commissioned employees and $7,500 for entry-level employees, Cole-Tindall said.