Unions file complaints against Oregon after news outlets received vaccine info

Oregon

The spreadsheet sent to the news outlets included whether specific employees were verified as vaccinated

FILE – In this Dec. 24, 2020, file photo, a COVID-19 vaccination record card is shown at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif. Los Angeles leaders are poised to enact one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates, a sweeping measure that would require the shots for everyone entering a bar, restaurant, nail salon, gym or even a Lakers game. The City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, is scheduled to consider the proposal and most members have said they support it as a way of preventing further COVID-019 surges. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Five state employee unions filed complaints Wednesday against Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services Labor Relations Unit, saying the state violated the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act when it disclosed individuals’ vaccination statuses to two news outlets. 

The unions say the information was released to The Oregonian and The Statesman Journal on or around Oct. 18, 2021 and included private medical information of more than 43,000 executive branch employees, including more than 31,000 employees represented by the unions that filed the complaints. 

The unions are asking the state to pay them each a civil penalty of $1,000 for violating the agreement and say the state should provide employees with any financial assistance needed if their personal information is disclosed and results in identity theft. 

They are also asking the state for a full apology for “its broken promises” and to ensure that no additional data breaches occurred or will occur in the future. 

The five unions that filed complaints are the Association of Engineering Employees of Oregon, which represents about 1,121 state employees; two Oregon American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees units , which represent about 3,400 Department of Corrections employees and 3,140 employees from other departments and offices;  the Service Employees International Union Local 503, which represents about 24,000 state employees, and the International Association of Firefighters Local 3340, which represents about 28 firefighters at the Kingsley Airforce Base. 

The unions say they all signed letters of agreement with the state between Sept. 30 and Oct. 15, in which the state agreed it would respect employees’ privacy and confidentiality as to whether or not they intended to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

This occurred after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order in August which required all executive state employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to keep their jobs. Employees were required to be vaccinated by Oct. 18, 2021. 

The complaints say The Oregonian and The Statesman Journal have been receiving information regularly from the state reflecting the number of state employees that have received exemptions and accommodations for the vaccine. However, information sent on Oct. 18 included employees names and their vaccination status, rather than just the aggregate information, the complaints state. 

The spreadsheet sent to the news outlets included whether specific employees were verified as vaccinated, whether they received a medical or religious exemption, whether their vaccination record or exemption request is still being processed, or if they had not submitted any information. 

The Oregonian published an article announcing the state’s data breach on Oct. 18. So far, neither of the news outlets have published the individual employees’ confidential and private information. 

“There is no way for employees or the Union to adequately ensure that the information will be destroyed and that it will not be shared further with individuals or organizations that have no right to access the information,” IAFF 3340 wrote in its complaint. 

The complaint states that many employees believe the data was intentionally disclosed in an attempt to shame people who sought vaccine exemptions. 

KOIN 6 News contacted the Oregon Department of Administrative Services on Sunday for comment. We are waiting for a response. 

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