Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a special session of the Florida Legislature to discuss the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The legislature convened Nov. 15-17, 2021, and passed four bills that address employee protections and parental rights. On Nov. 18, 2021, Gov. DeSantis signed the following bills into law.
- House Bill (HB) 1B/Senate Bill (SB) 2B: Creates a framework for employees to make health decisions and affirms the rights of parents to make healthcare decisions for their children. The bill prohibits COVID-19 vaccination mandates for employees in government and public education and protects parental choice on masks, vaccines and quarantine. Specifically, private-sector employers can require vaccinations, but they must offer the following five exemptions:
- Medical reasons, as determined by a physician, advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or physician assistant (PA). Medical reasons include pregnancy or expectation of pregnancy.
- Religious reasons, based on a sincerely held belief
- Immunity based on prior COVID-19 infection, as documented by a lab test
- Periodic testing, agreeing to comply with regular testing at no cost to the employee
- Personal protective equipment (PPE), agreeing to comply with use of employer-provided PPE
Fines can be levied on companies that fail to comply with the new law ($10,000 per violation for employees with fewer than 100 employees and $50,000 per violation for larger companies).
Within 15 days of the bill being signed, the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Department of Legal Affairs and the Department of Economic Opportunity will develop emergency rules for the implementation of the new law.
- HB 3B/SB 4B: Creates a public records exemption for information, including personal medical information and religious information, contained in files created during an investigation of an employer who refuses to provide individual exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination requirements
- HB 5B/SB 6B: Directs the Executive Office of the Governor to review options for the state of Florida to take responsibility over Florida workers' occupational safety and health and provides a $1 million appropriation to the Governor's Office of Policy and Budget (OPB) to study the issue
- HB 7B/SB 8B: Repeals the authority of the state surgeon general to mandate vaccinations