Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed HB 1-B, Ch. 2021-272, Laws of Fla. (the “Vaccination Exemption Law”), which prohibits every private employer from issuing COVID-19 vaccination mandates for its Florida employees without allowing employees to opt out for five specific exemptions: (i) medical reasons, including pregnancy or expectation of pregnancy, as determined by a physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or physician assistant; (ii) religious reasons, based on a sincerely held belief; (iii) COVID-19 immunity, based on prior COVID-19 infection, as documented by a lab test; (iv) periodic testing, agreed to by the employee and at no cost to the employee; or (v) based on compliant use of employer-provided personal protective equipment (“PPE”), agreed to by the employee. Employers that receive a “completed exemption statement” must allow the requesting employee to “opt out” of the employer’s vaccination requirements. Employers will be found to have violated the Vaccination Exemption Law by failing to provide for exemptions in their COVID-19 vaccination mandate and terminating the employee—which includes “the functional equivalent of termination,” as defined below.
On December 2, 2021, the Florida Department of Legal Affairs issued a Notice of Emergency Rule (the “Rule”), further defining key provisions of the Vaccination Exemption Law. Moreover, this Department (headed by the Attorney General) has issued guidance in the form of FAQs (the “Guidance”), outlining the employee complaint procedure for potential employer violations of the Vaccination Exemption Law.