WDFW Reports 38 Separations As Vaccine Mandate Deadline Arrives

WDFW reports separating from more than three dozen staffers as the deadline for state employees to show proof of full Covid vaccination or receive exemptions came Monday.

“As of last night, our numbers indicated that we unfortunately had to separate 38 staff from service yesterday,” spokeswoman Carrie McCausland said this morning.

Figures she provided show 18 separations within WDFW’s Fish Program, nine in Wildlife, four in Enforcement, three in Habitat, three in the Capital and Asset Management Program and one regional staffer.

“It is hard to lose staff who have given so much to the agency,” said Director Kelly Susewind. “The exemption and accommodation process allowed us to find jobs for some staff, but given the agency’s focus on partnership and working in Washington communities, it was and will be impossible to find accommodations for all. The number of staff we separated is too many, but less than we feared. The impact from those separating is spread out across programs and regions, and we do not anticipate any major disruptions in operations or our ability to manage fish and wildlife. I’m grateful so many staff were able to get vaccinated and will remain with the department to continue their important work of conserving the State’s fish and wildlife resources.”

It breaks down as seven separations in Region 2, Northcentral Washington; seven in Region 3, Southcentral Washington; six in Region 1, far Eastern Washington; five in Region 4, Central and North Puget Sound; five in Region 6, the coast and Olympic Peninsula; four in Region 5, Southwest Washington; and four at Headquarters in Olympia.

“The numbers may change somewhat as [we] have some additional staff who must fully complete their vaccination process (and are now on leave until that occurs) or have a reasonable accommodation still under review,” said McCausland.

The agency has been able to approve reasonable accommodations for 21, she added.

A total of 125 had applied for religious exemptions and 14 for medical exemptions, according to last week’s data from the Office of Financial Management.

WDFW employs 1,994 across the state.

As of October 12, OFM reported 92.51 percent of WDFW staffers had been verified as vaccinated, a figure which is on the higher side for the state’s larger agencies.

Sister natural resource agency Ecology had just under 96 percent verified vaccination, while 83.38 percent of State Parks staffers were.

Earlier this month, around 20 game wardens were sent “discharge notices” over vaccine status. Yesterday’s figures would suggest that many vaxxed up or were granted exemptions. Meanwhile, the Washington State Patrol reports separating from “67 troopers, 6 sergeants, and 1 captain.”