The answer is No. On November 18, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed a new state law that prohibited COVID-19 vaccine mandates for both public and private sector workers.
Business owners in the sunshine state will have to find ways to abide by the new law while still maintaining compliance with the Federal Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency, Temporary Standard COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Health Care Staff Vaccination Interim Final Rule, and also the Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate.
Florida Statute 381.00317 forbids firms in the state from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for their workers except if they also give room for five separate specific exclusions. The restriction in Florida law applies to “ full-time, part-time, or contract employees.”
Workers who believe their company has contravened the new law are required to submit a claim with the Department of Legal Affairs. Claims can be submitted for infringements such as not being allowed an exempt status, being wrongfully refused an exempt status, or being fired immediately as a direct consequence of a vaccine mandate.
If the Department of Legal Affairs determines that the worker was unfairly dismissed due to a vaccine mandate, the attorney general shall immediately impose a levy or related administrative fine. The maximum penalty is $10,000 per infringement for businesses with less than 100 workers and $50,000 per infringement for businesses with over 100 employees.
5 Exemptions Employers Must Accord an Employee in the State of Florida
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Employers in Florida are mandated to allow employees an exemption for medical reasons, such as pregnancy or impending pregnancy. The law states that a “disability” or “handicap” (the terms used by the Florida Civil Rights Act as synonyms for the ADA’s disability definition) is not required; howbeit, an employer can give room for accommodation for a medical reason.
To demand a medical exemption, the worker will have to make available to the employer an exemption statement issued and approved by a doctor, medical assistant, or advanced practice licensed nurse stating that the COVID-19 vaccination does not fall within the employee’s best healthcare interest.
Agreement to use PPE
A worker will have to make available a statement stating that they consent to use employer-provided personal protective equipment (PPE) when they are in the presence of others. The above statement will be expected to contain details of the employee’s agreement to follow the employer’s PPE requirements when working with others.
The OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard permits businesses to offer testing as a substitute for vaccination, Florida rule mandates businesses to offer testing as an opt-out opportunity.
To demand this exempt status, the worker’s exemption statement will have to affirm that the worker conforms to undergo regular COVID-19 testing at no expense to the worker. The Florida Department of Health is tasked with determining the rate of testing, the forms of assessment, etc.
Employees may seek exempt status for religious reasons. Unlike a Title VII request for accommodation since a held religious belief disputes with the company’s guidelines, this Florida law obligates business owners to exempt a worker who provides a declaration stating that the worker declines COVID-19 vaccination due to religious belief.
A religious exemption statement is expected to include the employee’s religious beliefs. The Florida law is vague on this subject, but the form supplied by the State of Florida asks the worker to sign a declaration mentioning the worker’s genuinely held religious beliefs.
The exempt status will also need to be accorded if a worker provides “competent medical proof that the worker has resistance to COVID-19, substantiated mostly by findings from a legitimate laboratory test conducted on the worker.” Have in mind that there is no time constraint on the previous infection in Florida law. The form supplied by the state demands the test date but doesn’t out rightly note how old the test must be.
The Florida Department of Health is empowered to disclose rules requiring the regularity of testing, the qualified methodologies of testing, the sort of evidence that will be assumed “competent” for reasons of the immunity exemption statement, and any surrounding elements relating to a worker’s expected pregnancy.