SPOKANE, Wash. - Thirteen Washington State employees in Spokane County are leading the charge in a COVID-19 vaccine lawsuit.

In total, the lawsuit is being filed by 23 state workers from Spokane, Grant, Benton, Kittitas, Pierce and Island counties.

According to Attorney Grant Wolf, all but one Plaintiff on the lawsuit are still employed. 

"Many of them have been issued notices of intent to separate," Wolf said. 

The state employees are suing multiple Washington leaders for their part in the vaccine mandate including Gov. Jay Inslee, Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer, , Department of Transportation Secretary Roger Miller and Social and Health Services Secretary Donald Clintsman.

"We are planning to amend the lawsuit to add more Plaintiffs and Defendants as well," Wolf said. 

Eleven reasons are listed in the lawsuit, claiming the mandate is unlawful.

"The challenges that are brought up in the lawsuit are wide-ranging," Wolf said. 

Some of the reasons including, claims of Gov. Inslee acting beyond his power and violates the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause that reads, "no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

The lawsuit details communication between multiple Plaintiffs and their employers.

According to the lawsuit documents, on September 23, Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer sent a letter to his employees with issues from the city's evaluation of possible vaccine accommodations.

According to court documents, the letter said the city, "determined that accommodating a religious or medical exemption for an unvaccinated EMT/Paramedic would result in undue hardship or burden and pose a direct threat to the safety and health of employees and others. For that reason, we cannot reasonably accommodate employees in their job of hire."

Schaeffer went on in the letter urging people to consider reassignment, possibly to a desk position. If employees did not seek a new role that could be given safety accommodations, they would be terminated.

The documents also detail conversations between the Department of Social and Health Services and Plaintiff Shelley Engle of Spokane County.

Court documents claim that Engle followed the correct steps by submitting forms in September to receive a religious exemption. The documents go on the claim Engle has yet to hear back from her employer about possible safety accommodations.

Through the filing, the employees are seeking to keep their jobs, obtain damages over claims of violating federal law and cover attorney fees and costs.

According to Wolf, the lawsuit is being funded by non-profit Washington Citizens For Liberty at no cost of the Plaintiffs. 

According to Gov. Inslee's mandate, state workers need to be vaccinated by October 18 meaning that last day to initiate the shot and be fully vaccinated was to receive the Johnson & Johnson shot October 4. 

In response to the lawsuit, the Officer Of Governor Inslee told KHQ in a statement they have yet to see the filing. 

"Our office has not seen the lawsuit yet. It is difficult to weigh in on the process between each employer and each employee, or what a proper accommodation is in any particular work setting – it will vary, because every work setting is different.

"Not one court challenge to the governor’s pandemic response has been successful. That’s because the governor has acted carefully and appropriately to serve Washingtonians throughout this pandemic."

KHQ reached out to Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer who directed us to the City of Spokane. 

The City of Spokane and Washington State Patrol said they cannot comment on active litigation. 

Read the full lawsuit here: