Public Records Act exemptions are found in RCW 42.56.230-.470. Numerous other exemptions and disclosure prohibitions are sprinkled throughout other state and federal statutes.
For a comprehensive list of exemptions, see Appendix C of MRSC's Public Records Act publication. The Code Reviser’s Office also annually publishes a list of exemptions contained in the RCW, which can be accessed on the Attorney General’s Sunshine Committee webpage.
Statutory exemptions must be narrowly applied and (in addition to prohibitions) provide the only basis for withholding public records. Agencies cannot withhold records based on an assertion that release of the records will cause embarrassment to an agency official or employee, and, as a general matter, cannot withhold records based solely upon the identity of the requester (RCW 42.56.080 and RCW 42.56.550(3)).
For further guidance on exemptions and a quick summary of the exemptions most frequently encountered by local government agencies, see MRSC's page on Exemptions and Prohibitions for Local Government Records.