Florida employers can require COVID-19 vaccine but can’t ask for proof

8 On Your Side

A nurse prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the new coronavirus to be injected at the Andras Josa Teaching Hospital in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (Attila Balazs/MTI via AP)

This article has been archived due to changing guidelines from the EEOC which now state that employers can now require vaccines and proof of vaccination. The governor’s executive order only pertains to patrons of businesses and does not extend to the employer-employee relationship.

TAMPA (WFLA) – Can your boss legally ask if you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine? And if you haven’t, can your employer force you to get it?

Whether you’re already back at work or plan to return soon, you may have questions about what comes next as we return to normal.

According to experts in employment law, Florida employers can ask questions about the COVID-19 vaccine but legally, they can’t verify anything you say.

In Florida, the honor system rules.

With the days of working from home likely numbered, 8 On Your Side hit the streets to find out your top concerns and questions about the vaccine in the workplace.

“If I hadn’t been vaccinated, I would probably just want to be treated the same as if I had,” said Tampa resident Ben Friedman.

Like Friedman, Leanna McKenzie also supports vaccination.

“How are you going to know if someone has it? Are we mandated to carry our card on us at all times?” said McKenzie.

Brian Koji is a Labor and Employment Attorney at Allen Norton & Blue, P.A..

“Essentially, you’re on the honor system,” said Koji.

Rule 1:

Your boss can ask if you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s not considered to be an unlawful and intrusive medical question, according to recent federal guidance.

“Could they ask if you’ve had COVID?” asked 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.

“Your boss can inquire about that,” said Mr. Koji, “however…they have to show that it’s job related.”

Rule 2:

Your boss cannot ask follow-up medical questions unless they show it’s job-related. For example, it would be a job-related question for those in the healthcare industry.

But could your boss require that you get vaccinated as a condition of employment?

“We’re obviously in uncharted territory here,” said Mr. Koji. “Push comes to shove, it’s our view that you can require it.”

Rule 3:

Your boss can require the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.

Koji says, right now, most Tampa Bay area employers are choosing to just encourage the vaccine, instead of mandate it.

There’s one major takeaway for all Floridians.

“Public employers, private employers, none of them can require documentation of vaccines,” said Mr. Koji.

Mr. Koji is referring to a Florida law that bans so-called vaccine passports.

Again, although your employer can require the vaccine, they cannot make you prove that you’ve actually had it by showing documentation.

What about time-off to get the vaccine or to recover from any side effects?

“You would likely be entitled to have time off if you have side effects, symptoms under the Americans with Disabilities Act but it does not have to be paid time off,” said Koji.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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