EXCLUSIVE: Seattle refusing to rehire firefighters terminated over vax mandate despite dire staffing shortage

"L6 is browned out," a source with the department said.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Despite a massive staffing shortage that continues to cause units to be "browned out," the Seattle Fire Department is still refusing to rehire firefighters who were terminated after refusing to get the COVID vaccine.

"L6 is browned out," a source with the department told The Post Millennial on Friday. "Browned out" means to temporarily shut down a station or apparatus due to staffing concerns.

Earlier in the week, The Post Millennial obtained documents showing that firefighters that were terminated due to the city’s vaccine mandate are not being hired back but those that "resigned, retired, or was separated for medical or disability reasons but not granted disability retirement may request return of their name to a supplemental register to be considered with the open graded eligible register for the classification or rank."

When the mandate was announced, department employees applied for and were granted exemptions for their sincerely held religious beliefs preventing them from receiving the vaccination against COVID-19, but they were still denied accommodations for their exemptions and were terminated. The accommodations included wearing masks and regular testing which employees were required to do before the vaccine was rolled out and were made standard operating procedure when the virus spiked after the rollout.

In documents obtained by The Post Millennial, fire department employees who were terminated were told in formal rejection notices after they requested reinstatement, "You were separated on (date redacted) for non-compliance with the city’s vaccine mandate and the department's inability to find a reasonable accommodation. As such your request does not meet the rule the criteria of PSCSC (City of Seattle Public Service Commission) rule 10.03."

"Per PSCSC rule 10.03 your request for reinstatement to the eligible register for firefighter is denied."

In September 2022, Seattle firefighters sued the city seeking lost wages including their lost benefits and pension rights after they were terminated. The lawsuit followed another suit filed earlier in the month seeking injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order against the city and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins to prevent any more members of the department from being fired because of the policy.

The first suit also alleged that the city and Scoggins "had pre-determined to not accommodate religious exemption employees, including each Plaintiff." The suit cited sworn testimony by Deputy Chief and Union President for Local 2898 Thomas Walsh obtained by The Post Millennial in which he stated that during the pandemic before the vaccines were available, the Seattle Fire Department had tens of millions of contacts with the public and only a single instance of transmission.

In February, Seattle lifted its vaccine mandate for employees, but even up until that date, firefighters and other first responders were still being terminated despite the severe staffing shortage.

The SFD staffing crisis, which also followed vaccine mandates, is so severe that one whistleblower said, "someone is going to get killed," and believes that the city will not take any action to solve the problem even if the next victim is a firefighter.

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