House approves carve-out for media on birth date disclosure

If made into law, the public wouldn’t have access to government workers’ birthdays, but the media would.

Associated Press

OLYMPIA — The Washington House on Friday passed a bill that exempts birth dates of state and local government employees from public disclosure, but allows the media to continue to have access to them.

The chamber passed the bill on a 91-7 vote. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The bill is in response to an October ruling by the state Supreme Court that said birth dates of state employees are public records that are subject to disclosure.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court said there was no statutory or constitutional allowance that would preclude the release of such information. The fight over access to employee birth dates stems from a 2016 request from the Freedom Foundation, a conservative group that had been seeking disclosure of records of union-represented employees, so it could contact them as part of its effort to reduce the size and influence of public-sector unions. Several unions sought to stop the release of the records.

Advocates of the measure say that it is needed to protect state employees from identity theft, stalkers, and others who may want to target them at home. But advocates for open government argue that the state’s Public Records Act does not distinguish between requesters, and say the media should not be treated differently than other citizens.

If the bill becomes law, state and local government agencies also would be required to notify employees and their unions whenever a public request is made for employee information.

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