DeSantis Administration Fines County $3.5 Million for Firing Employees over Vaccine Mandate

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. The site at C. B. Smith Park will offer monoclonal antibody treatment sold by Regeneron to people who have tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH), under Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) direction, fined Leon County over $3.5 million this week after it fired over a dozen employees over vaccine mandates.

The FDOH fined the county $3,570,000 for an estimated 714 counts of violating a state statute, as DeSantis effectively banned the use of vaccine passports in the state. Yet, according to the governor’s office, Leon County proceeded with the requirement anyway.

On July 28, the county announced that employees had to be fully vaccinated by October 1. While the vast majority, 700, complied, 14 did not submit proof, resulting in their termination.

“It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, infringed on current and former employees’ medical privacy, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions,” DeSantis’s office said in a statement. 

“Governor DeSantis will continue fighting for Floridians’ rights and the Florida Department of Health will continue to enforce the law,” the statement added.

DeSantis, who in May signed Senate Bill (SB) 2006 in May, banning the use of vaccine passports in the state, addressed the hefty fine directly on social media.

“No one should lose their job because of COVID shots,” he declared, announcing FDOH’s move.

“We must protect the jobs of Floridians and preserve the ability of Floridians to make their own decisions regarding what shots to take,” he added:

The county has 30 days to pay the fine. However, Vincent S. Long, Leon County Administrator, said there is a “genuine disagreement about the applicability of the statute and rule” and suggested the county “will enforce its rights using any remedies available at law, if necessary.”

This is not the first battle the DeSantis administration has faced off against counties implementing vaccine mandates. Weeks ago, the City of Gainesville ultimately rescinded its vaccine mandate for city workers after a judge granted a temporary injunction against it. Similarly, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (D) clarified in September that first responders would not lose their job for failing to comply with the county’s vaccine mandate. 

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