In response to the state economy and financial outlook, effective May 18, 2020, Governor Inslee has directed state agencies under his authority to implement a freeze on hiring employees for positions not related to public safety or other non-discretionary activities. The list of agencies under the Governor can be located here:

Executive Cabinet

Small Agency Cabinet

While the freeze does not apply to agencies headed by separated elected officials and some boards or commissions, you are encouraged to implement similar cost-saving measures.

State agencies under the governor's authority are prohibited from filling a new or vacant position unless it:

  • Directly impacts public safety,
  • Are essential to the health and welfare activities of state government,
  • Generates revenue,
  • Are required to meet statutory mandates, or
  • Are related to the state's response to the pandemic.
  • Due to the health and safety of Washington residents or to the protection of public assets, the following activities are exempt from the hiring freeze:
  • Direct custody, supervision, and patient care in corrections and juvenile rehabilitation programs; institutions for the care of veterans and individuals with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities; state psychiatric hospitals; and Special Commitment Center, School for the Blind, and Washington Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth;
  • Direct protective services to the children and other vulnerable clients of the Department of Children, Youth and Families and the Department of Social Health Services;
  • Washington State Patrol investigative services and field enforcement (troopers);
  • Hazardous materials response and emergency cleanup;
  • Public health laboratory, and emergency public health and patient safety response;
  • Military operations and emergency management within the Military Department;
  • Firefighting activities;
  • Enforcement officers at the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Liquor and Cannabis Board, State Gambling Commission, and Department of Natural Resources;
  • Park rangers at the Parks and Recreation Commission;
  • Employees hired on a seasonal basis by the Department of Agriculture for insect detection and inspection and certification of agricultural products; and
  • Other positions related to the health, safety and welfare and any unforeseen, emergent circumstances involving critical state operations.

Exemption is also granted for activities directly involved in producing revenue:

  • Tax and fee collection, auditing and recovery
  • State Lottery operations; and
  • Activities necessary to receive or maintain federal funds by the state.

If you believe you meet one or more of the exceptions above, please work with your HR Business Partner for next steps in the hiring process.

If you have a position that needs to be filled but does not meet any of the bullet points under Exceptions to Hiring Freeze, a hiring freeze exemption request can be filed. The request will be reviewed by the State HR and OFM Budget. State HR will track all exemption requests received and notify you when a decision has been made on your request.

Agencies should write exemption requests as if they are explaining the position to the media, the Legislature, or the member of the public. Focus less on the importance of the position and more on why you can't delay the workload or redistribute it to existing staff.

Bad Examples:

  • "There is no existing staff to whom we can distribute the work."
  • "The existing staff have full workloads and do not have the time to take on additional duties."

Good Examples:

  • "The Human Resources Department is currently operating with the loss of two hourly payroll support positions and a 40% reduction in classified FTE due to budget cuts. This makes it difficult to absorb the loss of an additional FTE."
  • "This shop has approximately 1,500 preventative and corrective work orders annually, not including emergency requests. One equipment technician is on light duty. This leaves one equipment technician to carry the majority of this workload if this exemption request is not approved."
  • "This position requires a skilled and licensed plumber. No other staff is licensed to perform this work."
  • "Over the past two years, the department has reduced staff by 17 positions through reorganization efforts. Filling this vacancy will enable us to maintain a minimum staffing level of 12 persons in the department."

Please work with your HR Business Partner when completing a hiring freeze exemption request.

Agencies must track hires during the hiring freeze, and be prepared to respond to inquiries regarding individual hiring decisions. Agencies should track which positions/hires met the automatic exemption criteria and which positions were approved to be filled through the OFM exemption request process. The hiring freeze exemption tracking log may be useful to you in tracking your hiring activities. Agencies must also keep a log of any positions where the individual accepted a position prior to May 18, 2020 but did not start in that position until after May 18, 2020.

If you have any questions, please contact your HR Business Partner.