Florida limits Covid vaccine mandates, challenging Biden’s requirements for private businesses

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  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday that limits vaccine mandates in the Sunshine State and requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop a plan to opt out of federal oversight.
  • “We are respecting the individual liberties of people in this state,” DeSantis said at a Honda car dealership in Brandon, Florida.
  • The Labor Department’s top attorney, Seema Nanda, has clarified that federal OSHA rules will supersede any state laws that prevent businesses from enforcing vaccination and testing requirements.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Thursday that aims to roll back President Joe Biden’s implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements for private businesses in the Sunshine State.

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DeSantis called a special session of the legislature to pass four bills challenging Biden’s policy. During a press conference on Thursday, the governor said the goal of the law is to protect people from losing their jobs if they do not want to be vaccinated.

“We are respecting the individual liberties of people in this state,” DeSantis said at a Honda car dealership in Brandon, Florida. “It’s a personal choice, it’s a science-based approach, to say it has to be a personal choice,” DeSantis said.

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Florida laws prohibit businesses from enforcing a COVID vaccine mandate unless they provide certain exemptions. They are also required to develop a plan to withdraw Florida from federal oversight by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and to develop a state plan for worker safety.

OSHA, which ensures workplace safety for the Department of Labor, this month issued emergency workplace safety rules requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to make sure their employees are vaccinated. or have been submitted for regular COVID testing by 4th January.

Under Florida laws, businesses that fire employees based on a vaccine mandate can be fined $10,000 per violation if they have fewer than 100 employees and $50,000 if they have more than 100 employees. could. Businesses can avoid fines if they reinstate the employee with a backpay.

Biden policy doesn’t require businesses to fire employees who don’t follow the rules. The rules leave the discipline at the discretion of the companies. The White House has encouraged businesses to educate employees who do not follow rules on the importance of vaccination and testing.

However, sample implementation plans posted on OSHA’s website list unpaid leave and termination as examples of potential consequences workers may face.

The Labor Department’s top lawyer, Seema Nanda, has said that federal OSHA rules supersede any state laws that prevent businesses from enforcing requirements on vaccinations and testing.

While Florida is allowed to develop its own state-based workplace safety plan, it must be submitted to OSHA for approval, and its workplace safety standards must be in accordance with the law establishing OSHA, at least in accordance with federal requirements. should be less effective.

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Under Florida law, businesses are required to exempt employees from a mandatory vaccination policy if they have COVID immunity from prior infection, be tested periodically for the virus or wear company-provided personal protective equipment. Choose.

“We recognize people who have natural immunity,” DeSantis said. “Whatever a private employer wants to do, you are automatically exempted because of your natural immunity.”

People with conscientious religious beliefs or medical conditions can also opt out of the company’s mandatory vaccination policy, although the Biden policy already provides exemptions in those cases.

Under Biden’s policy, people who were previously infected with the virus cannot opt ​​out of vaccination and testing requirements. They must either get vaccinated or submit a negative COVID test weekly to enter the workplace.

OSHA said it decided to exempt those who were previously infected and without vaccination, because scientific data is limited and it is not possible for employers to grant such exemptions. Agency Cited a study in Kentucky It was found that people who were not vaccinated, those who were previously infected, were 2.3 times more likely to be re-infected than those who were vaccinated after their prior infection.

A Florida law limiting the vaccine mandate has been halted pending review by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana, pending review of the Biden rule. 26 Republican attorneys general, including Florida, have filed lawsuits to overturn the requirements.

Those lawsuits were consolidated into a single case earlier this week in the conservative-leaning Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio. Private companies and national industry groups have also filed suit, including the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business.

DeSantis said, “The end result of the OSHA lawsuit in the Sixth Circuit is that the thing is going to crash and burn, it’s going to go down. I’m willing to put a lot of money on that.”

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