FLORIDA’S PRIVATE EMPLOYERS MAY REQUIRE COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

Covid-19 cases are on the rise again as the highly contagious delta variant attacks the unvaccinated and even a few individuals who have received a vaccine. It was recently reported that twenty percent (20%) of all new Covid-19 cases are in the State of Florida. Local intensive care units are again full and hospitals are restricting visitors and deferring elective surgeries that require inpatient admissions.

Meanwhile, Florida’s new law, effective July 1, 2021, banning “vaccine passports” has confused some employers.  The law, however, does NOT prohibit private employers from asking employees and job applicants whether they have been vaccinated against Covid-19. The law, Florida Statutes §381.00316 only applies to patrons or customers of a business. Specifically, the law states that a business “may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state.” (emphasis added). The new law against vaccine passports does not apply to employees of a business.

There have been lawsuits filed against employers requiring vaccinations. In one widely-reported case, 117 employees filed suit against a Texas hospital. That suit was dismissed by a federal judge last month. In Indiana, a federal court upheld Indiana University’s right to require students to be vaccinated.*

On May 28, 2021, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued its opinion on whether employers could require all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated. Its answer: Yes, but it must provide reasonable accommodation to an applicant or employee who, because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, do not get vaccinated for COVID-19, unless providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.

CONCLUSION: With minimal exceptions, employers may require their employees to get a Covid-19 vaccination. They may also require proof of vaccination. Of course, in requiring vaccinations, employers must continue to avoid discriminating against any protected class of workers (employees may not be treated differently due to disability, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or genetic information.

*381.00316 prohibits Florida universities from requiring student vaccinations.

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