Florida Enacts Vaccine Mandate Legislation Affecting Employers
Governor DeSantis has signed into law the Florida Legislature’s bills addressing COVID vaccinations, effective November 18, 2021 through June 2023.
Under the new state laws, a private employer cannot impose a COVID-19 vaccination on full-time or part-time employees or contract employees unless they allow the following exemptions:
- Medical reasons, including, but not limited to, pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy;
- Religious reasons;
- COVID-19 immunity;
- Periodic testing (employer paid); and
- Employer-provided personal protective equipment.
For any failure to provide an exemption that leads to a separation, an employee can bring a claim with a state agency. After an investigation, the state agency may impose fines, based on employer size:
- For an employer with fewer than 100 employees, $10,000 per violation.
- For an employer with 100 or more employees, $50,000 per violation.
But the state agency may not impose a fine on an employer that reinstates, prior to the issuance of a final order by the state agency, a terminated employee with back pay to the date that the complaint was received by the state agency.
Government entities may not require COVID-19 vaccinations of anyone, including employees, and may face fines not to exceed $5,000 per violation for doing so.
The federal agencies that previously issued vaccine mandates have taken the position that their regulations will override any contrary state law, which may include Florida’s new laws – and the federal vaccine mandates are subject to court challenges. We expect that there will be developments in the next few days on all of these issues,
Williams Parker has launched a multidisciplinary task force of lawyers across the firm to advise on issues arising from COVID-19. This team is closely monitoring legal developments and guidance from federal, state, and local government and public health officials.