WFSE Members Raise Concerns Over Public Disclosure Requests

Several WFSE members have received notification from their employer/agency regarding two separate public disclosure requests (PDRs) sent to the Department of Retirement Services—one from the Seattle Times and another from the so-called Freedom Foundation (FF). (See sample below.) Click here to complete a brief survey regarding this matter.

Seeking protection: If you previously sought exclusion from a PDR due to safety reasons, i.e. a victim of violence, stalking, etc., then your information remains protected. If you were not previously excluded and believe you should be for a similar reason, you have the right to seek a court injunction. The injunction must be served to your department prior to the specified disclosure date.

A note on birth dates: During the 2020 legislative session, WFSE members successfully passed H.B. 1888, a bill that improves the state’s public disclosure law and prevents individuals and organizations (aside from the news media) from receiving full dates of birth. Media outlets requesting this information are expected to handle it with care. Thanks to WFSE members, the FF is forbidden from receiving public employees’ full dates of birth.  Please complete this brief survey regarding our union’s role in shaping Washington’s public disclosure law.

Reason for disclosure requests: While we do not yet know the reason for the Seattle Times request, we hope they plan to write a story about the extravagant salaries of a select few executive level positions, while highlighting that average retirees earn less than $30K.

We suspect the FF is pursuing public employee contact information to use in their anti-public employee propaganda campaign. This shadowy organization seeks to privatize public jobs and cut state employee pay, benefits and retirement. The FF also has ties to other groups participating in nefarious activities. Learn more at https://nwaccountabilityproject.com.

Resources: 

Questions or concerns? Contact our Member Connection Center at 833-MCC-WFSE or [email protected]
 

Sample notice received by WFSE members:

To all L&I employees on behalf of Public Records; for all who took part in Shared Work.

 Public Records has received a records request from the Freedom Foundation seeking:

  • Any shared work compensation plan submitted to the Employment Security Department (ESD) and/or ESD’s commissioner since January 1, 2020.
  • For each plan described above, provide the written approval or rejection issued by ESD and/or ESD’s commissioner.

One of the responsive records contains a list of L&I employees that participated in Shared Work in 2020. Employees who didn’t participate in Shared Work are not on the list.

We plan to provide the list of employees to the requester on February 12, 2021. Most of this information is considered a public record under the Public Records Act, chapter 42.56. RCW. Since it’s considered public information, we plan to disclose certain information to the requester:

  • First and last name
  • Date of hire
  • Usual weekly hours worked
  • Hourly rate of pay
  • Associated union (if any)

We will redact/withhold Social Security Numbers.

If you disagree with L&I’s decision to release the records, you may attempt to get a temporary restraining order in superior court. To do this, you must file a legal action showing that release of these records clearly would not be in the public interest and would irreparably damage a person or substantially and irreparably damage vital government functions under RCW 42.56.540. If you already have a protective order such as the Address Confidentiality Program, let us know.

Remember that any email query from this group and any reply from you on the state system is a matter of public record subject to disclosure if not deleted. It’s also important to remember not to use public resources, such as the state email system or internet, for non-work activities. If the group contacts you on work hours through your work email account, consider whether the questions posed are part of your state duties or are personal or political.

We know that this kind of request may cause stress and anxiety, and we understand that protecting your information is important to you. It’s important to us, too. We always intend to release only that information that must be disclosed under the law.

If you have questions or concerns, contact your union representative. You may also contact the state Employee Assistance Program for help coping with stress. Jessica Ward is L&I’s Information Governance contact on this records request.

Graphic displays typewriter with paper reading, "Public Records"