Lawmakers gathered in Tallahassee on Nov. 15, 2021, for a special session at the request of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to address his concerns over vaccination mandates, mask requirements and parental rights in schools. Over a three-day period, the Florida Legislature debated and ultimately passed four bills. Together, this legislation:
- Effectively prohibits vaccination mandates by private employers by requiring employers to offer exemptions for medical reasons such as pregnancy or planned pregnancy, religious reasons, or immunity due to a previous COVID-19 illness. Additionally, employees can choose to participate in periodic testing or use personal protective equipment at the cost of the employer as an exemption.
- Imposes fines for employers who wrongfully terminate employees due to vaccine mandates.
- Prohibits school districts from imposing mask or vaccine requirements for students and creates a cause of action for parents to take legal action against districts that fail to comply, with the ability to recover all costs and attorney’s fees.
- Prevents school districts from quarantining healthy students or otherwise preventing them from participating in regular activities.
- Removes the state health officer’s authority to require vaccinations during a declared state of emergency.
Additionally, lawmakers approved a $5 million budget amendment to help pay for the Attorney General’s Office to fight federal vaccine mandate rules. For more information, read the governor’s press release.
On the same day the Florida Legislature ended special session, Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a motion to block the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ rule requiring vaccinations of all healthcare workers prior to its Dec. 6, 2021, effective date. However, a federal judge denied that motion just three days later, citing that Florida has not proved “irreparable harm” to its workforce. Essentially, Florida’s claims that the mandate will increase staffing shortages is mere speculation at this point. To learn more about the suit from Attorney General Moody, see the press release.
Florida previously filed suits against the Biden administration regarding the vaccination requirements for federal contractors and companies with more than 100 employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Nov. 17 that that rule is on hold while this lawsuit and others make their way through the courts.
Florida’s regular legislative session begins on Jan. 11, 2022.