(The Center Square) – Florida will sue the Biden administration if it implements its employer vaccine mandate and win because the president does not have the authority to issue such a directive, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.
“We’re going to contest that immediately. We think the state of Florida has standing to do it and we also know businesses that we’re going to work with to contest it,” DeSantis said in Fort Myers. “I think the mandate is going to lose in court.”
President Joe Biden on Sept. 9 announced he would issue an executive order mandating companies with 100-plus employees require workers be inoculated or undergo weekly tests to stay on the job.
The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) will present its rules Tuesday for review. They could be implemented 90 days after – late January.
“Does the federal government have this authority?” the governor asked. “Clearly, Congress has never enacted a statute to this effect, so this is a unilateral executive action. Does that trump the ability of individuals to make their own choices or the ability of states to be able to provide protections for people and for their jobs?”
DeSantis called on lawmakers to send him 2022 bills to allow workers to sue businesses if they’re fired or face retaliation for being unvaccinated, strip liability protections from businesses that impose worker vaccine requirements, and explicitly prohibit businesses from imposing vaccine mandates.
“If a business forces somebody to (be vaccinated) then that employee, if there’s anything that happens negatively as a result of that coercion, should be able to sue and get compensation and get damages,” he said.
Florida’s COVID-19 liability measure, Senate Bill 72, extends protections to businesses, schools, nonprofits, religious institutions and healthcare providers that make “good-faith efforts” to follow government guidelines.
SB 72 was adopted March 26 – the first 2021 bill passed – and signed by DeSantis three days later at the State Capitol while a band played the Beatles’ ’With A Little Help From My Friends.’
Businesses that impose worker vaccine mandates should lose liability protections provided by their friends in the Florida Legislature, the governor said.
“We provided good protection, but you know businesses turn around and now they’re imposing mandates, then that protection to me is something we would want to peel back from those businesses,” DeSantis said.
Lawmakers in 2021 also adopted SB 2006, which bans businesses from requiring “vaccine passports” for customers and governments from requiring vaccinations for employees with $5,000 fines for each violation.
The law was enjoined by a federal judge after Norwegian Cruise Lines sued, challenging its constitutionality and the state’s standing to regulate maritime commerce. Florida is appealing the ruling, which only applies to ships at sea.
Meanwhile, Florida continues to impose its bans on vaccine passports and mandatory vaccination under Department of Health (DOH) Rule 64DER21-12.
The DOH Tuesday fined Leon County $3.57 million for “714 counts” of violating SB 2006 and said 120 alleged violations are “under review.” Among the suspects: Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, AT&T, Northrop Grumman, Equinox, House of Blues and Miami Marlins.
A Sarasota business has challenged SB 2006 in state court. A ruling is expected soon
The best way to ensure the mandate bans survive lawsuits is by legislators legislating, DeSantis said. “We have a responsibility to do whatever we need to do legislatively to protect Floridians from mandates that could result in (people) losing their jobs,” he said.
Two pre-filed 2021 bills are proposing to encode mandate bans into statute: SB 452, filed by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, and HB 75, sponsored by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills.