Nov. 22, 2021 — The Walt Disney Company has paused its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees at its theme parks in Florida after state lawmakers banned employers from requiring workers to get vaccinated.
Walt Disney World could have faced fines under the policy, a company spokesperson told The New York Times. The Biden administration has ordered vaccinations for workers in large companies, but Florida and other states have challenged the mandate in court.
The Florida legislature passed a bill blocking COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law on Thursday. The new rule was promoted as an effort to protect workers who could lose their jobs.
“Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates, and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida,” DeSantis said in a statement.
The Florida law prevents employers from enforcing strict vaccine mandates and allows employees to request exemptions due to health or religious concerns, a previous coronavirus infection, or pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy. The law also says unvaccinated workers can get regular testing or wear protective equipment.
The fines for violating the ban could be $10,000 per day per each employee violation for businesses with fewer than 99 employees. For larger businesses, fines could be up to $50,000 per employee violation.
In August, Disney World reached a deal with employees to require theme park workers to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to keep their jobs. The company defended that rule again on Saturday, the Times reported.
“We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we’ve continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our cast members and guests,” the company said.
More than 90% of active cast members in Florida have verified that they are fully vaccinated, the newspaper reported. The Walt Disney Company said the pause will remain in effect while the company assesses the new state law, according to an internal memo obtained by FOX 35 News in Orlando.
Florida-based cast members and employees who haven’t verified their vaccination status will be required to follow safety protocols for unvaccinated people, including face coverings and physical distancing, the internal memo said.
The company also encourages guests to follow safety protocols by wearing face coverings, checking for symptoms, and getting vaccinated.
“We encourage people to get vaccinated,” the company said.