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Hiring freeze Q&A

The hiring freeze applies to all state agencies that report directly to the Governor:

While the freeze does not apply to institutions of higher education, agencies headed by separately elected officials, and some boards or commissions, we encourage them to implement similar cost-saving measures.

The hiring freeze is effective May 18, 2020, and will be in place until further notice.

The hiring freeze applies to all positions, including permanent, non-permanent, classified (includes Washington Management Service) and exempt.

No, because they have already received approval through the heightened scrutiny of the OCIO and OFM gated funding process.

Yes, with exceptions. There are automatic exemptions related to the activities listed in question 5 below and as indicated in the implementation memo – regardless of the type of position, budget, or fund sources. As to fund source, there are two exceptions:

  • If the position is 100% federally funded (no state match) or
  • If the position is funded 100% by bonds in the capital budget.

Under these two conditions, an exception request is not required.

Any other hires would require agencies to submit an exemption request to OFM at  However, budget and fund source will be a factor in evaluating an agency’s exemption request.

Positions that are directly involved in the activities listed below are exempt from the hiring freeze. Any positions that provide support to the activities listed below are still required to go through the hiring freeze exemption process (unless the position is 100% federally funded (no state match)).

Agencies do not need to request exemptions for positions that perform the following activities:

  • Direct custody, supervision, and patient care in corrections and juvenile rehabilitation programs; institutions for the care of veterans and individuals with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities; state psychiatric hospitals; the Special Commitment Center; School for the Blind; and Washington Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth;
  • Direct protective services to children and other vulnerable clients of the Department of Children, Youth and Families and the Department of Social and Health Services;
  • Washington State Patrol investigative services and field enforcement (troopers);
  • Hazardous materials response and emergency cleanup;
  • Public health laboratory, and emergency public health and patient safety response;
  • Military operations and emergency management within the Military Department;
  • Firefighting activities;
  • Enforcement officers in the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Liquor and Cannabis Board, State Gambling Commission, and Department of Natural Resources;
  • Park rangers at the Parks and Recreation Commission;
  • Employees hired on a seasonal basis by the Department of Agriculture for insect detection and the inspection and certification of agricultural products;
  • All positions in the Employment Security Department; and
  • Other positions related to health, safety and welfare and any unforeseen, emergent circumstances involving critical state operations.

Exemption is also granted for activities directly involved in producing revenue:

  • Tax and fee collection, auditing and recovery;
  • State Lottery operations; and
  • Activities necessary to receive or maintain federal funds by the state.

Agencies must track hires during the hiring freeze, and be prepared to respond to inquiries regarding individual hiring decisions. Agencies should track which positions/hires met the automatic exemption criteria above, and which positions were approved to be filled through the OFM exemption request process. OFM has provided the tracking log form for agencies to use to record this information:

Yes. OFM will monitor enterprise data related to new hires and appointments, turnover and headcount on a monthly basis, and will track the number of exemption requests received and the decisions made on each one.

Yes. If an agency needs to fill critical positions that don’t fall into the automatically exempt categories, they may request an exemption by completing the Hiring Freeze Request Exemption Form and submitting it to OFM at for consideration. The exemption request form must be signed by the requesting agency director.

An exemption may be approved for the critically necessary work of an agency.

OFM will meet weekly to process exemption requests. Determinations will be sent to agencies as soon as possible once a decision has been made.

The hiring freeze takes effect May 18, 2020 and applies to all hiring not specifically exempted per the criteria above. If an offer was extended and accepted prior to May 18, 2020, the hiring is not subject to the freeze. Agencies must keep a log of any positions where the individual accepted a position prior to May 1, 2020 but did not start in that position until after May 18, 2020.

No. All hires must either provide a service on the automatic exemption list or be submitted to OFM for review.

Extensions of temporary or non-permanent employees do not have to go through the hiring freeze exemption request process as long as they are not extended for a duration beyond what the applicable collective bargaining agreement or civil service rules currently allows.

If the employee will be converted within the same position the agency will not need to go through the hiring freeze exemption process.

Yes, but only if the movement is within the same agency and job class (or WMS band) and the movement is a simple change of duties and/or office.

If the movement includes a hiring process (e.g. active recruitment to build a pool of candidates, using a bid process or conducting interviews), the agency must submit an exemption request to OFM.

Before moving an employee into a vacant position, the agency should first ask:

  • Is the vacant position critical?
  • Can the critical work be redistributed to other staff?

No, an agency does not need approval through the hiring freeze process to reallocate a filled position. You will need approval to fill a vacant position that has been reallocated.  If you received approval to fill a position and the reallocation occurs after you received the approval but before you fill the position, you do not need to seek another approval.

No, when a layoff occurs, an agency does not need OFM approval to offer a vacant or filled position as a layoff option.

Only if there are new circumstances. Please highlight changes to the form (e.g. reduction of staff in the unit, retirements, etc.) and in the email you send when you file the request, explain that it is a resubmittal. Resubmitting a previously denied request, when the circumstances have not changed, will not be approved.

Yes, it’s easier and provides more context to the situation to submit one exemption request for a scenario like this. Submitting separate requests that look similar could raise the question of “Haven’t I seen this request before?” and could create a delay in getting a decision on your request.

Agencies should write exemption requests as if they are explaining the position to the media, the Legislature, or a member of the public. Focus less on the importance of the position and more on why you can’t delay the workload or redistribute it to existing staff.

Bad examples:

  • “There is no existing staff to whom we can distribute the work.”
  • “The existing staff have full workloads and do not have the time to take on additional duties.”

Good examples:

  • “The Human Resources Department is currently operating with the loss of two hourly payroll support positions and a 40% reduction in classified FTE due to budget cuts. This makes it difficult to absorb the loss of an additional FTE.”
  • “This shop has approximately 1,500 preventive and corrective work orders annually, not including emergency requests. One equipment technician is on light duty. This leaves one equipment technician to carry the majority of this workload if this exemption request is not approved.”
  • “This position requires a skilled and licensed plumber. No other staff is licensed to perform this work.”
  • “Over the past two years, the department has reduced staff by 17 positions through reorganization efforts. Filling this vacancy will enable us to maintain a minimum staffing level of 12 persons in the department.”

Questions about budget and FTE issues should be directed to your assigned OFM budget analyst.

Email if you need report recommendations or assistance with running reports.

No.  By signing the request, your agency head acknowledges that the request for exemption from the freeze is supported and is a critical need for your agency.

If the agency head is going to be unavailable for a period of time and has therefore delegated signature authority to another staff for that period of time, the other party may sign.  Include the explanation and/or attach a copy of the signature delegation.  If there is no formal delegation of signature authority and the director is unavailable to sign, explain why the agency head is not available to sign the request.

Please direct questions about hiring freeze exemptions or other personnel or human resource management questions to

Last updated
Monday, November 2, 2020
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