Washington state football coach Nick Rolovich’s status unclear until Monday’s vaccine deadline – .

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Washington state football coach Nick Rolovich’s status unclear until Monday’s vaccine deadline – .


PULLMAN, Wash .– Washington state football coach Nick Rolovich said he had not been advised of the status of his request for religious exemption necessary to comply with the COVID vaccination mandate -19 state.
Without resolution, this raises the possibility that Rolovich will not be allowed to continue his work past Monday’s deadline to get vaccinated or receive an approved exemption.

“I’ll come to work tomorrow… I don’t think it’s in my hands,” Rolovich said. “So, I’ve been settled on this for a long time, and I just think it’s going to work out the right way. “

His comments came moments after the Cougars (4-3) beat Stanford 34-31 on Saturday, taking their winning streak to three games and prompting players to throw a bucket of Gatorade over his head near midfield.

When Washington state expanded its vaccination mandate to include all employees at higher education institutions in August, Rolovich said he would comply, but has since confirmed that he has requested a religious exemption. to avoid getting vaccinated. He was repeatedly asked for weeks to expand on the reasoning for his position, but declined to provide clarification.

« [It’s been] about three months, four months, ”Rolovich said. “So I got used to it. These kids are amazing. Like to be around them. They play with all their hearts for this university. I think they have a really good bond that they will remember all their lives. And it’s just pretty special. “

Ahead of Monday’s deadline, there are still a number of ways Rolovich’s situation could play out.

Before anything can happen, the Washington State University committee responsible for reviewing all religious exemption requests must assess Rolovich’s. This is a blind process, which means that the committee will not have access to any identifying information when making its decision, a process designed to treat every employee equally. At least two people trained in the legality of the religious exemption must review each request, and there is no guarantee that they will arrive at Rolovich by Monday, according to WSU spokesman Phil Weiler.

Employees who did not receive their last vaccine by October 4 – the last day to allow time to be fully immunized before the deadline – or who were late in submitting the exemption request risked not being able to receive it. process on time, Weiler said. .

“We made it very clear for quite a long time before the October 4 deadline that if you wanted to receive an exemption, you had to submit it as soon as possible to ensure that a decision could be made before that. [being unable to come to work starting Oct. 19] “Weiler said Wednesday. “If we get a rush of requests at the end and the committee is not able to process them all on time, the employee will not be able to work for the university until this decision is made. on the request is made.

If Rolovich’s request is not processed by Monday, he will either be put on leave or he can take accumulated vacation until there is a resolution. He didn’t say when he filed the exemption.

Rolovich would also have the option of appealing the committee’s decision if his request is denied. This process has no set timeline.

If the committee denies Rolovich’s request and he still does not want to be vaccinated, his job will be terminated immediately. At this point, the school is expected to refuse to pay the remainder of its contract – setting up a possible legal battle.

Rolovich’s annual salary is around $ 3 million, of which $ 2 million is considered base salary. If he were to be fired without just cause, the terms of his contract would require the university to pay him 60% of his base salary remaining until June 30, 2025.

It is not known what would happen if Rolovich’s request was denied and he reversed his position and agreed to be vaccinated. However, the warrant would prevent her from doing her job for at least 14 days, the minimum time to be fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If his request is accepted, this does not guarantee that he will remain the WSU coach. In this scenario, the committee’s approval would go to the university’s human resources department, who would notify their supervisor, athletic director Pat Chun.

“The supervisor needs to determine: Can this person really accomplish their responsibilities, their tasks and do it in a way that protects the public? Said Weiler. “And then the supervisor then makes a decision. Either they say yes, then the exemption is granted. If they say no, the exemption is denied. “

In the case of Rolovich, who is the highest-paid employee in the state, the decision to make the accommodations would involve other university leaders, including President Kirk Schulz.

“In general, laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Washington Anti-Discrimination Act require that employers reasonably accommodate the sincere religious beliefs of their employees, as long as the accommodation does not exist. not place an undue burden on the employer, ”Charlotte Garden, an associate professor of law at Seattle University School of Law and an expert in labor and employment law, said in an email. “A typical [non-pandemic-related] accommodation may involve an employer partially waiving its rules on employee dress to allow an employee to wear religiously mandatory headgear, or an employer allowing an employee to take breaks at certain times to pray.

“Applying this standard in the context of the covid vaccine mandate is considerably more complicated. “

It is possible that the WSU leadership has already received the committee’s decision and decided on a course of action but has not yet informed Rolovich. Neither Chun nor Schultz made it clear whether the university would be willing or able to host Rolovich if his exemption were approved.

Rolovich said he had not received any indication from Chun on how the process would play out if his request was granted.

“If that’s not it [Chun] wants, so I guess then I have to, I have to move on, “Rolovich said. “But I love being here. I like to be the coach here. I love these children. And I just had faith in it. “

To further complicate an already unprecedented situation, Rolovich’s staff have several coaches who are also unvaccinated, according to multiple sources, and face the same exemption process as their head coach. The total number has not been made public.

If Rolovich obtains a bye and university management determines that he can fulfill his responsibilities while respecting the public safety obligation, he will remain the coach of the team, provided he continues. follow masking and other security protocols.

WSU did not provide any example of what constitutes a religious exemption. As part of the application process, Rolovich should have certified how his “sincere religious belief” conflicts with the vaccine requirement.

No major religious denomination opposes COVID-19 vaccines, but it does not affect what can be considered a sincere belief.

Rolovich was made available via Zoom after Saturday’s game, and he is expected to speak to the media on Monday.

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