Baker offers reinstatement to some state workers that lost jobs due to vaccine mandate

It was not immediately clear how many employees are being given the chance to be rehired.

Charlie Baker
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Some workers who lost their jobs for refusing to comply with Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine policy have been offered reinstatement by state officials. 

Baker told reporters Tuesday that the state is making offers to those employees that sought and were denied medical or religious exemption, The Boston Globe reported. State officials did not clarify how many employees were fired or quit because of the vaccine mandate. They also did not specify how many had been offered their jobs back. 

Baker, speaking at an unrelated event at Hanscom Air Force Base, indicated that reinstatement offers were only being sent to a small number of people. 


“There’s been a process here for dealing with those who sought exemptions, and there are a small number of people who, based on continued reviews of those exemption requests, we believe we have solutions for. We want to talk to them,” he said, according to the Globe

Soon after the mandate was put in place last October, more than 500 state employees were either terminated, suspended, or resigned, the Globe reported. By January, state officials said that 1,000 employees were fired or quit because they did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Baker administration said at the time that more than 97 percent of executive branch employees subject to the mandate were in compliance. 

In February, WBUR obtained a data report that showed the state had denied 89% of the requests it received for exceptions to the vaccine mandate. In total, 256 of more than 2,300 requests were approved at the time. 

“Part of the exemption process depends to some extent on medical issues, on religious issues. And it also depends on the work you do,” he added. “There’s a small number of people that we want to talk to because we think we may have an answer for them.”


Speaking anonymously to the Globe, a source within one labor group said that about 10% of their union members who were fired or quit because of the mandate received letters offering reinstatement. Those offers appeared to be an attempt by state officials to fill worker shortages in various departments. 

“There’s higher turnover, more people leaving,” the labor official told the Globe. “It’s harder for them to recruit people in this job market.”

In a letter obtained by the Globe, state officials cite guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the basis of their offers. In particular, state officials said that high immunity levels and effective tools for managing the spread of COVID-19 are reducing the risk of serious illness and death.

Representatives from the Baker Administration told the Globe that the offers are being made now because the state can “accommodate a small number of positions who previously were not accommodated under the vaccine requirement.”

But there are no plans to change Baker’s vaccine guidance at this time, Baker spokesperson Anisha Chakrabarti told the Globe

“These employees have been offered back their positions, and the administration does not anticipate more letters going out for additional positions,” Chakrabarti added. 


Last year, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey said that Baker’s mandate was “the right move” and that “it’s absolutely legal in my view,” according to WGBH

Geoff Diehl, Healey’s Republican opponent, has consistently brought the topic of vaccine mandates into this election cycle. In the first televised debate between the two, Diehl said that Healey turned her back on workers who lost their jobs due to the mandate, in particular police troopers. 

Last September, the State Police Association of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit in the hopes of delaying the mandate, arguing that it would cause “irreparable harm” to the union members. The union represents about 1,800 members of the state police’s 2,000-member force. A judge ruled against the union shortly afterward. A union representing thousands of Massachusetts prison workers also filed a similar lawsuit, which was struck down by a federal judge. 

Diehl issued a statement Tuesday applauding reports of Department of Transportation workers being offered reinstatement, but added that many others should be rehired as well. 

“However, this doesn’t excuse the fact that these terminations were wrong in the first place and unjustifiably displaced these workers for many months. It also overlooks the fact that there are many other people, including especially first responders, who are still out-of-work due to these mandates,” he said in a statement. 

Diehl promised to rehire every state worker who lost their jobs due to the mandate if elected governor, and said that he would “terminate any bureaucrat who thought those vaccine mandates were a good idea.”


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