High Risk Employee Accommodations

On May 11, 2021, Governor Inslee signed into law the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA). HELSA protects high risk employees from being discharged, permanently replaced, or discriminated against in the workplace for seeking accommodation from exposure to an infectious or contagious disease during a public health emergency. This currently applies to accommodations related to COVID-19.

Public Health Emergency

Protections against discrimination under HELSA are triggered when a public health emergency is declared by the President of the United States or by the Washington State Governor.

High Risk Employee

An employee is considered high risk if they are at an age or have an underlying health condition that puts them at risk of contracting a severe illness (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from an infections or contagious disease that is the subject of the public health emergency


Has obtained a recommendation from a medical provider for removal from the workforce due other high risk of contracting a severe illness.

Requesting an Accommodation

High Risk employees requesting an accommodation should submit:

  1. The Request for Accommodation Form and
  2. The High Risk Employee Medical Questionnaire filled out by their health care provider stating that the employee is at high risk of contracting a severe illness due to COVID-19 and requires an accommodation

Employees are not required to disclose any medical condition or diagnosis. Submit the documentation to the Medical Leave & Disability Administrator at hr.accommodations@wwu.edu.

The University will engage in the interactive process to explore reasonable accommodations like alternative work assignments, alternative work locations, reassignment or physical distancing measures.

If no accommodation is reasonable, employees may elect to use available leave options, including their accrued leave, leave without pay, or apply for unemployment insurance until the public health emergency ends or an accommodation has been provided.

The University will not discharge, permanently replace or discriminate against employees for seeking accommodations that protects them from the risk of exposure to the infectious or contagious disease or utilizing all available leave options.