How WA schools will assess employee religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate

By: | September 1, 2021

Following Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement that he would expand his COVID-19 vaccine mandate to school employees, questions arose about how the legally required religious and medical exemptions would be assessed.

Medical exemptions, while not entirely straightforward, involve reasons that the vaccine could pose a risk to the employee’s health, something documentation could prove.

However, religious exemptions are vague and perhaps more difficult to understand, especially because they are based on “sincerely held beliefs” which are difficult to legally challenge.

OSPI urges schools to presume an employee’s request for a religious exemption is based on a sincerely held belief. The only reason, according to OSPI, for a school to question an accommodation request is if there is a valid, objective reason to do so.

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