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DeSantis vows to protect employees facing termination for not receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Governor calls for special session to be held next month

Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged not to allow the federal government to force Floridians to get COVID-19 vaccines in order to work. He called Thursday for a special legislative session to pass new laws.

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis says the Florida Legislature will be brought together sometime in November for a special session as he asks them to take action to protect Floridians who are facing termination from their employers for not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We need to take action to protect Florida jobs,” the governor said, as some of his supporters held signs behind him that read “Freedom has a home here” and “Don’t tread on Florida.”

The governor, who was joined at a Thursday news conference in Clearwater by Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and Attorney General Ashley Moody, said he will also continue to fight against the Biden administration, which he said is “trying to use the heavy hand of government to enforce injections.”

REPLAY: Gov. Ron DeSantis holds press conference with Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and Attorney General Ashley Moody:

DeSantis said he believes receiving the COVID-19 vaccine should be an individual’s choice and said people’s “right to earn a living should not be contingent on COVID shots.”

He said losing nurses, police officers and firefighters, among others will not be good for the state of Florida and said that he believes employers who are mandating vaccines were stabbing his administration in the back after they stood up for their rights during the pandemic.

The governor also claimed that many employers have not been honoring religious exceptions, as required by federal law and vowed to stand up for “people’s jobs and their livelihoods.”

He said he is mounting aggressive legal challenges to federal mandates and will take legislative action to add protections for people in Florida.

According to the governor, one of the actions he is asking the Florida Legislature to take is to ensure that employers are unable to state they are firing someone “for cause” if those employees refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

He said employers who require that their employees be vaccinated should also be held liable if those employees suffer any adverse reactions from the vaccine.

“Yet again, Gov. DeSantis is troublingly more focused on scoring political points with his base than on the health and safety of Florida,” Democratic State Sen. Shevrin Jones said in a statement. “At every turn throughout the pandemic, the Governor has rejected science, further endangering the lives of hardworking people across the state. Florida deserves leadership that will promote truth and facts, not more reckless politics with human lives on the line.”

Despite the CDC and other top health officials in the country stating data shows COVID-19 vaccines are safe, Ladapo said there is still “much more to learn about the safety of these vaccines.”

He also criticized companies that have implemented vaccine mandates, saying that losing one’s job is bad for both their physical and mental health, and often causes one to lose their health insurance.

Ashley Moody, the state’s attorney general, said she backs DeSantis’ call for a ban on vaccine mandates.

“What you have right now is a president of the United States and a federal government mandating vaccines,” Moody told Local 10 News Senior Political Reporter Michael Putney. “You’ll hear Biden’s own press secretary say there’s not a whole lot of precedent for this. Well, there’s not a whole lot of precedent for it because it is unlawful, it’s overreaching, it’s draconian.”

There is some precedent. In 1905, during a smallpox epidemic, the Supreme Court ruled that states can enforce compulsory vaccine laws.

Moody said that that ruling does not apply to the federal government. The Biden administration says that it does.


About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.