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Florida Requires Broad Vaccine Exemptions

As part of Governor DeSantis’s announced intent to “stop the coercion” of the federal government in requiring employers to mandate their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, a new Florida law (FL HB 1B) was signed on November 18, 2021. The law expires on June 1, 2023.

The law permits private employers to mandate that employees be vaccinated; however, private employers may not impose a COVID-19 mandate without providing individual exemptions which allow an employee to “opt out” of the mandate based on one of the following reasons:

  • Medical reasons, including pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy;
  • Religious reasons;
  • COVID-19 immunity;
  • Agreeing to comply with periodic testing at no cost to the employee; or
  • Agreeing to comply with a reasonable written requirement to use employer-provided personal protective equipment (PPE).

What’s Next?

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has created COVID-19 Vaccination Exemption Forms for employees to request an exemption for one of the above reasons.

The DOH has also issued an emergency rule and additional guidance which provides more detail for employers.

What About Federal Law?

Although federal law already requires employers with 15 or more employees to grant exemptions from a vaccine mandate based on a disability or religious belief, those laws have an undue hardship exception. The exemptions under Florida’s law are broader; specifically, there is no undue hardship exception.

The legality of state laws that obstruct employer vaccination policies will also be dependent upon whether the federal OSHA ETS survives its current legal challenges.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should consult with their legal counsel on the applicability of the law and their specific situation(s).

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.