DeSantis promises millions in fines to cities, counties requiring employees to be vaccinated

Gov. Ron DeSantis says local governments that require their workers to get vaccinated will face fines

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday local governments requiring employees to be vaccinated is intrusive and possibly illegal and he is going to start fining any government entity in Florida that mandates vaccines.

“We are going to stand for the men and women who are serving us. We’re going to protect Florida jobs –we are not going to let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate,” DeSantis said.

At a news conference in Alachua County Monday, DeSantis said he will start fining cities and counties if they require employees to vaccinated or be fired.

“You will face a $5,000 fine for every single violation and if you look at places like Alachua County, like the City of Gainesville that’s potentially millions and millions in fines,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said he was basing the fines on a new law forbidding vaccine passports or proof of vaccination in businesses or government.

In Palm Beach County, only the office of tax collector Anne Gannon requires employees to be vaccinated.

In an email to WPBF 25 News investigative reporter Terri Parker, Gannon wrote: “I believe the Governor has misinterpreted the statute…the statute refers to a business entity not employees. (It) refers to a requirement for persons to provide documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccine to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the governmental entity’s operations.”

Some other local governments, such as the City of Delray Beach, require employees either get vaccinated or be COVID-19 tested weekly.

A spokeswoman for Delray Beach also said the law the governor is using to fine governments does outlaw vaccine passports but does not specifically prohibit employers from requiring workers to get vaccines.

“SB 2006 does not apply to the city as an employer. Rather, it prohibits the city from mandating vaccine status from individuals who want to gain access to, enter upon or receive service from the city,” Gina Carter said.

Several firefighters and Alachua County employees facing firing also spoke at the news conference, saying they have been on the front lines during the entire pandemic; that many have already had COVID-19 and thus have natural immunity, and don’t think they should be fired for a personal medical choice.

In an email from the governor’s office, a spokeswoman said: “The state law against vaccine passports applies to any government entity that requires proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, for employees as well as members of the general public. The fine is $5k per infraction, and that could be applied to every employee.”

The relevant part of the statute says:

(2) A governmental entity as defined in s. 768.38 may not require persons to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the governmental entity’s operations in this state.