Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that protects your Florida employees from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The four bills that were passed through a Special Session of the Florida Legislature have a direct impact on the eligibility for unemployment benefits as well.
In a bulletin released by FL DEO, effective immediately Private Employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates are prohibited.
- Employees can choose from numerous exemptions, including but not limited to, health or religious concerns; pregnancy or anticipated future pregnancy; and past recovery from COVID-19.
- Employees can choose to opt for periodic testing or PPE as an exemption.
- Employers must cover the costs of testing and PPE exemptions for employees.
In addition, if an employee is terminated due to a vaccine mandate, and the employer has not complied with the new law, the employee may be eligible for unemployment benefits. FL has stated that they will not consider these terminations as misconduct and the terminated employee may qualify for benefits. In addition, work is not deemed suitable and benefits may not be denied to a terminated employee refusing a new offer of work if the terminated employee is otherwise eligible and the position requires compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination mandate contrary to the new provisions.
In addition, employees can file a complaint with the FL Department of Legal Affairs if they feel that an exemption has not been offered, or if their exemption request has been improperly applied or denied. Employers who violate the employee health protections can be fined.
- Small businesses (99 employees or less) will face $10,000 per employee violation.
- Medium and big businesses will face $50,000 per employee violation.
Additional items covered in the new legislation are:
✓ Government entities may not require COVID-19 vaccinations of anyone, including employees.
✓ Educational institutions may not require students to be COVID-19 vaccinated.
✓ School districts may not have school face mask policies.
✓ School districts may not quarantine healthy students.
✓ Students and parents may sue violating school districts and recover costs and attorney’s fees.
For more information about the new laws, please refer to the FL DEO website https://www.floridajobs.org/ or this fact sheet https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Protect-Florida-Jobs.pdf. This is an emergent situation and Thomas & Company will continue to monitor this situation in Florida and other states. You can always find the latest information on Vaccine Mandates in our Knowledge Base at https://support.thomas-and-company.com/hc/en-us/sections/4408219144471-COVID-Vaccine-Mandates. We promise to report any new developments as they are discovered. If you have any questions or need any additional information, please contact you Client Relationship Manager.