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City of Gainesville receives notification of fines for requiring employees to attest to vaccination status

Gainesville City Commission at August 19 meeting

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Mayor Lauren Poe received a letter on Friday, September 24, from Doug Woodlief, the Division Director for Emergency Preparedness and Community Support at the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), notifying the City that they will be responsible for fines of $5,000 per employee for requiring employees to attest to their vaccination status.

The letter referred to an August 12 memo from City Manager Lee Feldman to the city commission, describing the charter officers’ plan to implement a motion made by the commission on August 5. Under the section responding to the commission’s direction to “create and implement a plan to require that all city employees receive the COVID vaccine,” the first step is “1. All employees will be required to attest (including proof of vaccination) to their vaccination status by September 7, 2021.”

The letter from FDOH notes that SB 2006 “specifically prohibits a governmental entity from requiring persons to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, or entry upon, the governmental entity’s operations in this state. The Department of Health is authorized to impose a fine of $5,000 per individual violation of [this law].”

Regarding the City’s policy, the letter says, “This discriminatory policy infringes upon the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians and is a direct violation of Section 381.00316, Florida Statutes. The City of Gainesville will be subject to fines for each individual violation… Please immediately provide the current total number of employees who are subject to the requirement.”

Although Alachua County has not mandated vaccines for their employees, they have also required all employees to attest to their vaccination status, and County Human Resources Director Heather Akpan told the county commission on September 7 that the County “had to get corrective actions” to 15 people who refused to attest to their vaccination status and that they were pretty close to 100% who had attested to their status as of that date. 

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In response to a request for comment from Mayor Poe, Communications Director Shelby Taylor sent the following statement: “At its General Policy Committee meeting on Sept. 23, the Gainesville City Commission voted to reconsider its policy requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. The motion specifically rescinded all previous direction for COVID vaccination policies. The city manager is in the process of issuing a response to the state’s letter.”

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