At the start of summer, Governor Ron DeSantis declared that Florida is “no longer in a state of emergency.” This statement preceded a bill banning vaccine passports, and two executive orders suspending local government COVID-19 restrictions.
For employers, this doesn’t mean you should rush to discard your face marks requirement, nor should it impact your decision to mandate vaccines. Employers remain free to implement safety features they feel needed.
New York vs. Florida
Many Northeastern states have begun experimenting with COVID passports. For instance, New York City now requires at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for entry to indoor dining, gyms, and entertainment performances. For better or worse, Florida has gone in the opposite direction. Florida law now prohibits businesses from implementing these measures with respect to customers. Specifically, the new law says that “business entities,” including for-profit and not-for-profit entities, cannot require that patrons or customers provide documentation certifying that they received the COVID-19 vaccine or certifying that they have recovered from the virus to enter or receive a service from the business.
The law does not prohibit private businesses from requiring that their own employees show proof of vaccination or certification that they recovered from the virus such as a negative COVID test. Recent guidance from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has reaffirmed that it is generally acceptable for employers to inquire about an employee’s vaccine status. This is beneficial for employers because it allows them to address and fine-tune return-to-work policies with an aim toward providing sufficient health and safety protections.
Likewise, Florida’s law does not prohibit businesses who wish to require certain protections worn by customers, such as masks. Businesses can also continue to use screening protocols, such as temperature checks. The Florida statute continues to leave these issues to individual employers – at least for now!