On Oct. 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he would call a special session of the Florida legislature to vote on banning the Biden administration’s effort to have private companies enact vaccine mandates. During a Nov. 8 press teleconference, DeSantis’ Chief of Staff James Uthmeier said drafts of the legislation should be released by tomorrow morning at the latest and “as soon as the end of today.”
“We put in the legislation that women who are pregnant or who anticipate becoming pregnant are most certainly exempt from any vaccine requirement,” Uthmeier said during the teleconference, adding that “anybody who has already had COVID-19 and recovered will be exempt from any vaccine requirement.”
Uthmeier also stated that all employees, whether they have applied for a qualified exemption or not, must be given the option to choose between either periodic testing or use of PPE as an alternative to any vaccine requirements—at no cost to the employees.
“So this is truly a prohibition on vaccine mandates being implemented by businesses,” he said.
Asked if there will be any protections in the law for private companies against the vaccine mandates imposed by the Biden administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), DeSantis’ Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said that, while they “do envision that,” the new legislation will involve a litigation strategy.
“So while they are talking about legislation,” Pushaw explained, “they are also litigating against the federal government to block the OSHA requirements from coming into force.”
Regarding injury to any employee who was forced to get vaccinated to save their job, Uthmeier said they believe Florida’s Employee Compensation laws already cover that.
“If your employer has some sort of policy requirement requiring vaccines, somehow in violation of this law, and it leads to an injury then employees absolutely should be compensated,” he said.
In addition, the legislation will prevent government entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone, including employees.
“Enforcement will be through an investigation and fine process,” Uthmeier explained. “The Attorney general will be appropriated funds to receive complaints from employees that believe this law is being violated and following an investigation, if the attorney general concludes that the law is violated there will be fines ranging from $10,000 per employee violation (for small businesses with less than 100 employees) to 50,000 per employee violation for medium and larger businesses, businesses with 100 or more employees. We’ve reaffirmed and clarified that the government entities may not require COVID-19 vaccinations of any person. That is currently in the law.”
When it comes to educational institutions and schools, Uthmeier said the new legislation “will build upon existing protections put in place over the last year,” adding that the new legislation will also “create a private right of action for parents and students 18 and older to challenge violating school districts and recover costs and attorney fees.” Educational institutions may not require students to wear facemasks and may not quarantine healthy students.
Asked who is drafting the legislation, when they anticipate it to be ready for passage, and if they anticipate anything or anyone getting in the way, Uthmeier said the draft has been assembled through a collaborative effort that involves the speaker of the house, the senate president and the governor’s office.
“We’ve all been working around the clock the last week to two weeks,” Uthmeier told The Epoch Times. “We have some drafts that I think are nearing completion. I would expect them to be released by tomorrow morning at the latest probably as soon as the end of today.”
While he anticipates there will be some amendments and edits, one thing will be made very clear to employers who attempt to get around the new law through unpaid leave.
“Some companies are putting employees on unpaid leave rather than termination,” Uthmeier said. “The governor’s view is that is not acceptable. That’s the same thing as losing your job if they take away your paycheck and you can’t feed your family.
“I don’t see any roadblocks. I think the leaders in the legislature have worked hard across their constituencies and diverging views to make sure we’ve got something that will pass.
“So, God willing we will have a law signed by the end of next week.”