The Oregon Department of Administrative Services inadvertently emailed out the vaccination status of 40,000 state employees on Monday.
The state agency, headed by Oregon governor Kate Brown, was meant to send a spreadsheet to the Oregonian/OregonLive and Salem Statesman Journal containing COVID-19 vaccination rates and exemptions across several executive branches after Brown announced a vaccine mandate for all employees last month. The deadline for vaccinations was Monday, and instead of emailing just the vaccination rates and exemption rates, the department sent an attachment containing the vaccination status of 40,000 employees to the outlets.
The spreadsheet noted each employee by name, and revealed whether they were vaccinated against COVID-19, whether they had applied for medical or religious exemptions, and the approval status of each exemption request. The breach comes just weeks after the Service Employees International Union 503 signed a contract with the state that included a privacy clause that guaranteed the employees’ vaccination status would not be made available and that any information passed along from the state agencies affected by the mandate must first be de-identified.
The contents of the email sent on Monday directly violate the privacy clause of that contract. Ben Morris, a spokesperson for SEIU 503, told Oregonian he was most concerned “that one of the main things that we heard from members who were vaccine hesitant is they were concerned about their privacy in this situation.” Morris added, “This is a breach of trust at the worst possible time.” According to Morris, the union is still undecided on how it will proceed.
Oregon Department of Administrative Services External Relations Director Adam Crawford admitted he was the person who accidentally included the confidential information in the email. He took the blame for the mistake in a follow-up email, according to Statesman Journal. Neither publication will publish the full data, but will still publish the originally-requested data that does not name any employees.
This did not appease state Republicans, including state senator Fred Girod (R-Lyons), who gave a statement to KTVZ, saying, “I have been opposed to this overreach since the day Kate Brown announced it. Government should never coerce people into having medical procedures let alone keep track of this information. It proves to Oregonians they should not trust the government with their private health information or with this much power over their day-to-day lives.”
The data, as reported by Oregonian, showed 90% of the employees are vaccinated against COVID-19, with the lowest vaccination rates in the Oregon State Police (74%), the Department of Corrections (70%) and the Forestry Department (65%). The Police and Corrections also had the highest number of religious exemptions.