OLYMPIA – Workers would gain protection against employers who seek to force them to attend meetings where they are required to listen to the employer’s opinions on religious or political matters, under legislation passed by the Senate today.

SB 5778 would make Washington the sixth state in the nation to prohibit employers from disciplining or firing employees who refuse to attend such meetings.

“Workers are hired to do a job. Going to work should not obligate a worker to listen to their employer’s views on religious and political matters,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee and prime sponsor of the bill.

Employers should not be able to force workers to attend political rallies promoting national political candidates, Keiser said, or to listen to anti-trans speakers, citing examples of inappropriate meetings. Under the bill, employers would also not be able to require workers to attend meetings where they are told that that attempts to unionize will lead to layoffs or loss of benefits.

Oregon, Connecticut, Minnesota, Maine and New York have passed similar laws.

An amendment adopted on the floor ensures that the legislation does not prevent employers from requiring attendance at training to reduce and prevent workplace harassment or discrimination.

“Nothing in this bill infringes on an employer’s ability to say what they want to say,” said Keiser. “The bill simply protects the rights of workers by making religious or political meetings voluntary.”

SB 5778 now moves to the House for consideration.