State Supreme Court cites new law shielding public workers in anti-union group’s sweeping records request
OLYMPIA (Aug. 29, 2023) — Employees who dedicate their lives to serving the public have the right to safety and privacy. They have the right to be protected from stalking, sexual harassment, and further abuse from perpetrators of domestic violence.
A Supreme Court decision last week is proof that public employees have affirmed that right through the legislative process. A new law, House Bill 1533 sponsored by Rep. Sharlett Mena (D-Tacoma), protects public employees who are survivors (or have dependents who are survivors) of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, or sexual assault from having their personal identifiable information or location disclosed. The law was passed with strong support from the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) AFSCME Council 28, multiple other public employee unions, and the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
Last week’s court decision cited the new law in referring a sweeping public records request to a lower court to make sure that public employees’ privacy and safety is protected as intended under the new law.
Here’s how a WFSE report describes the case:
In an attempt to weaken public sector unions, billionaire-funded anti-worker groups like the Freedom Foundation have repeatedly attempted to expand the amount of personally identifiable information on public employees that is subject to disclosure. They use this information to harass employees at home and at work.
Freedom Foundation operatives often pretend to be working for the union and try to trick employees into signing paperwork that will end their union membership.
While the Freedom Foundation’s attempts to weaken public sector unions have failed, their attempts to expose public employee data has put public employees in danger.
When the Freedom Foundation made a particularly sweeping information request to state and local agencies — including sensitive information like worksite address, employer, and contact information — WFSE members who had suffered domestic violence, stalking and sexual harassment filed a lawsuit through their union seeking an injunction.
The injunction was granted, stopping the Freedom Foundation’s request in its tracks. While the case worked its way through the courts WFSE members began working on a legislative fix during the 2023 legislative session.
The result was HB 1533, which allows public workers who have been victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual harassment to alert their employer that certain sensitive information cannot be disclosed.
Last week’s Supreme Court decision in our original lawsuit is proof positive that our work during the legislative session paid off. It sends the case back to the the trial court for application of the new statute, HB 1533.
We stopped them once with a lawsuit, and we just stopped them permanently with a new law. We are so proud of the work our members have undertaken through their union to protect themselves and fellow public employees.
How to take advantage of House Bill 1533
This new law is only useful if those who need their information protected take advantage of it.
We encourage our members to take advantage of the new law by telling HR their or their dependent’s status as a survivor and their need for protection under House Bill 1533. The text of the new law is here.