Dozens of public employees in Washington state filed a lawsuit against Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeSeattle area to require COVID-19 vaccine to enter indoor venues Washington state troopers, firefighters sue over vaccine mandate Washington state enacting mask mandate for large outdoor events MORE (D) last week, claiming his COVID-19 vaccine mandate went beyond his legal authority and violated the state constitution.
As The Seattle Times reported, more than 90 plaintiffs were listed in the lawsuit against Inslee, including 53 state police employees as well as firefighters, state ferry system workers and corrections staff.
In August, Inslee issued multiple proclamations requiring most state employees, school workers and health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. All state employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or be blocked from working.
Exceptions to the mandate were made for disability-related reasons or a "sincerely held religious belief."
In their lawsuit, the state workers argued that Inslee's proclamations violated "the authority of his office by the Washington Constitution statute, and, independently, violates the rights guaranteed to the state workers by the Washington constitution and applicable statutes."
They also accused Inslee of imposing "unconscionable" penalties on those who do not comply.
Mike Faulk, Inslee's deputy communications director, defended Washington's vaccine mandate in a statement to The Hill.
"These requirements are both legal and appropriate to protect the public," Faulk said. "It’s not unreasonable to ask public servants to help alleviate the public’s suffering in this pandemic."
The lawsuit claims that Inslee's office could not provide evidence that a COVID-19 vaccine offered greater immunity or lowered transmissibility better than "a natural immunity produced by the human immune system."
The COVID-19 vaccines created by Moderna and Pfizer have been shown to be at least 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 infection. The Pfizer vaccine was granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration last month.
As the Times noted, Inslee's mandates are stricter than those that have been enacted by other states because his do not permit weekly COVID-19 testing in lieu of getting vaccinated.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, around 75 percent of the state's eligible population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and about 68 percent are fully vaccinated. Both figures are significantly higher than U.S. averages of 63 percent and 54 percent, respectively.