On November 18, 2021, during a special legislative session, Florida passed new law prohibiting private employers in the state from enforcing mandatory vaccination guidelines for their employees unless they offer their employees the opportunity to request exemptions from such guidelines for: (1 ) medical reasons (including pregnancy or expected pregnancy); (2) sincere religious beliefs; (3) COVID-19 âImmunityâ; (4) the employee’s consent to undergo periodic tests; or (5) the employee’s consent to compliance with personal protective equipment (“PPE”) provided by the employer.
Some of the exemptions required by the new Florida law, such as: B. Exceptions to the mandatory vaccination requirements for employees with illnesses or disabilities or exceptions for employees with sincere religious beliefs are at least partially in accordance with the longstanding guidelines of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on the subject and the vaccination orders already issued by the federal government. Others, however, such as the requirement to provide exemptions for workers with COVID-19 âimmunityâ or for workers who agree to undergo regular tests or comply with their employer’s guidelines on personal protective equipment (PPE), lay completely new foundations May âdeclineâ an employer vaccination mandate for Florida workers more than required by current state guidelines.
Although there is currently very limited guidance available to Florida employers on these new exemption requirements, the Florida Department of Health has released sample exemption forms for Florida employees that they can use if they choose to opt out of vaccination orders from private employers to let bases. Unfortunately, in many ways, the sample forms only add to the confusion and uncertainty of Florida employers on the subject by including wording that states that an employee ârequiresâ the employer to âallow the employee to complete the form to get away from COVID. of the employer -19 vaccination order. âGiven this language, it is unclear whether an employer in Florida who receives an exemption request from an employee must now automatically grant that employee an exemption from his vaccination order, or whether the employer continues to use an interactive process as intended with these workers can carry out through the EEOC guidelines and federal law to determine whether granting the requested exemption would constitute undue hardship on the company. It is also unclear which documents employees have to submit in order to prove âimmunityâ, a term that has so far remained undefined. These distinctions are important because the new law also empowers the Florida Attorney General (on a complaint from an employee) to fines of up to $ 10,000 for private employers with fewer than 100 employees or $ 50,000 for private employees with more than 100 employees to impose employees.
This new legislation comes just a day after the US Department of Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA) announced it is suspending enforcement of the Temporary Emergency Standard (ETS) and requiring employers with 100 or more employees to require vaccines or weekly COVID – Perform tests. to solving current legal challenges. To further complicate matters, many of the requirements of the ETS, the federal CMS rule, and federal contractors’ vaccine mandates set out in Executive Order 14042 are in direct conflict with those of the new Florida law – allowing Florida employers lagging behind, federal vaccination regulations are halfway between compliance with state or federal laws. Although both the ETS and CMS contain wording that specifically states that their requirements pre-empt those of state and local law, Florida is expected to initiate litigation to contest these claims, which has become material in the meantime Confusion leads.
This new law only represents the latest challenge to employers in the ever-changing pandemic landscape, and additional guidance on its requirements is expected to be released in the coming weeks. Florida employers who have questions or concerns about compliance with this new law or the impact of its requirements on their existing or proposed workplace vaccination policies should consult an experienced employment counselor.