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Last Update July 30, 2020 2:50 pm

Overview and Program Provisions
Eligibility
Entitlement
To Apply
Questions & Answers
Resources


Overview

What is the High Risk Employee – Workers’ Rights Proclamation?

Governor Inslee signed Proclamation 20-46 High-Risk Employees – Workers’ Rights on April 13, 2020. On July 29, 2020 the Governor extended the proclamation (Proclamation 20-46.2) through the duration of the state of emergency, or until otherwise rescinded or amended. The Proclamation provides high-risk employees, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with certain protections in employment. The provisions are in effect April 13, 2020 through the duration of the state of emergency, or until otherwise rescinded or amended.

Program Provisions

Upon request high-risk employees are to be offered alternative work assignments, including telework, alternative, or remote work locations, and social distancing measures, if feasible.

  • If an alternative work assignment is not feasible, or the employee declines, the employee may use any accrued leave or seek unemployment benefits;
  • The employer will maintain the employee’s health insurance benefits;
  • The employer will not permanently replace the high-risk employee for taking advantage of the benefits provided under Proclamation 20-46.2.

Eligibility

Employee Type
Faculty, Administrative Professional, Classified staff, Temporary/Hourly

High-Risk Employee
High-risk employees are defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and specifically include:

  • 65 years of age or older; and
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions

Entitlement

The University determines what designations may be approved based on the facts of each individual situation and information provided by the employee. Employees are responsible for providing sufficient information so that the University is able to make the appropriate determination.

The Proclamation provides older workers and those with underlying health conditions a series of worker rights and protections. These rights include the choice of an alternative work assignment, such as telework, alternative or remote work locations, and the implementations of social distancing measures, if feasible. If alternative work assignments are not available or feasible and the employee is unable to safely work, the employee may have the ability to use any accrued leave or apply for unemployment benefits. Employee protection includes employer maintained health insurance benefits during the period of time the high-risk employee is off the job and job protection. Employers are prohibited from permanently replacing high-risk employees.

Request Types

  1. Alternative work assignments or work location on worksite, if feasible, and social distancing measures.
  2. Alternative telework or remote work location assignments, if feasible.
  3. Use of accrued leave
  4. Unemployment benefits if an alternative work assignment is not feasible and the employee is unable to safely work

To Apply

  • High-Risk Employee Accommodation Application include sufficient facts supporting the request
  • Supporting Medical Documentation will not be required if the request is based on underlying health condition AND the employee is already in possession of medical documentation. In addition, if the employee is not already in possession of supporting medical documentation the employee will not be required to request medical documentation from their health care provider.

Questions & Answers

Eligibility
Alternate Work Location/Telework
Leave Options
Unemployment

Eligibility

Are healthcare employees, first responders or other essential personnel excluded from the Proclamation? (updated 4/23/2020)

No, there are no exclusions. If an employee is at high-risk, as defined by the CDC, employer is required to accommodate them.

Are employees required to provide documentation to verify that they are high-risk? (updated 4/23/2020)

If an employee is requesting accommodation due to being in a high-risk group, they are to complete the high-risk employee workers’ rights-accommodation request and they provide sufficient facts to support the request.

I have an employee in my work unit whom I believe fits one or more of the high-risk employee categories. Should I reach out to them directly to ask if they would like accommodation? 

Because of the risk of potential “regarded as disability” discrimination and age discrimination, it is recommended to communicate to all employees about the proclamation rather than to reach out directly to specific employees who have not asked for accommodation. 

I want to take care of a family member who is in the high-risk employee category under the CDC guidelines. Am I eligible for this accommodation program under that circumstance

No. The High-Risk Employee program is specific to employee accommodations for their own condition.

Alternate Work Location/Telework

Can an employee decide not to telework or work in an alternative location, if alternate work options are available, if the employee has been approved for a HRE accommodation? (updated 4/23/2020)

Yes, an employee who has been approved for a HRE accommodation may decide to not work even if alternative work options are available due to their determined level of safety and ability to work in that capacity.

If employee who meets the high-risk employee category as defined by the CDC is already teleworking for non high-risk reason, does the employee need to complete the form to continue to do so?(Updated 4/23/2020)

No. If a high-risk employee, as defined by the CDC, has already made alternate working arrangements that they believe protect them from COVID -19, then they do not need to complete the High-Risk Employee Workers’ Rights – Accommodation Request to continue to do so.  

If alternate arrangements need to be made please contact Disability Services.

Telework has been requested and offered to a high-risk employee, where they will not have to come in to a WSU worksite at any time, but they indicated they would rather take leave. Does leave need to be approved in these circumstances?

The Proclamation gives discretion to employees about how best to remain safe, therefore the state is encouraging employers be flexible with employees at this time in approving the used of accrued leave. 

Leave Options

What type of leave can employees use for this purpose? (updated 4/23/2020)

Employees may use accrued leave, including annual, sick, compensatory time, personal holiday (in full-day increments). Employees may also apply for the EPSL program based on their HRE status. Information regarding the program and the application process is found on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act webpage.   

Is an employee required to exhaust their accrued leave prior to filing for unemployment if they are unable to work due to their status as a high-risk employee?

No, employees may file for unemployment benefits even if they have not exhausted their available accrued leave.   

In what order can employees use leave when approved for leave under the Proclamation? 

Employees may use their accrued leave in any sequence at their discretion. 

Unemployment

If an employee is not being laid off, how are they able to seek unemployment benefits? What documentation should be provided to them if they request information related to the Proclamation? (updated 4/17/2020)

ESD has passed an emergency rule allowing an employee to file for benefits due to lack of work when they are unable to work due to being a member of a high-risk group as defined by the CDC. If an employee is seeking to use unemployment benefits rather than using leave due to lack of an alternative work arrangement, the employer would provide documentation to ESD if there is a lack of work. The employee is responsible for identifying appropriate information to provide to ESD if they decline leave or alternate work arrangements.

Can an employee decline an accommodation offered?

Per the State of Washington Human Resources, yes. The intent of the Proclamation is to give employees control over how best to remain safe. Even if the employer is offering telework, a high-risk employee could decline it in favor of leave or unemployment.

Resources

State of Washington

Washington State Human Rights Commission