Walt Disney World Resort in Florida announced this week that it would suspend its COVID-19 vaccine mandate after the state legislature and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted legislation curbing the large employer’s coercion power.
“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, and at this point, more than 90 percent of active Florida-based Cast Members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated,” Disney said in the statement. “We will address legal developments as appropriate.”
Disney’s policy change comes on the heels of legislation signed by the state’s Republican governor that effectively shields Florida workers from being fired over their decision not to get the shot based on medical, religious, or natural immunity reasons and fines businesses that don’t comply with tens of thousands of dollars. The new law, which was drafted in a special legislative session called by DeSantis to fight vaccine coercion, also says unvaccinated workers must be given exemptions if they agree to undergo regular testing or wear a mask.
“Nobody should lose his or her job over these mandates, and we thank legislative leaders for their part in delivering on the promise to Keep Florida Free,” DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw tweeted in a statement. “Disney is a major employer in Florida and we are proud that the happiest place on Earth is here in our state. We hope Disney and any other company that has suspended or terminated workers due to vaccine mandates will consider re-hiring them.”
— Christina Pushaw 🐊 🇺🇸 (@ChristinaPushaw) November 20, 2021
It also follows a temporary stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit putting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule created under the direction of President Joe Biden, which required private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate the COVID-19 shot or risk hefty fines.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki lamented Florida’s new laws on Monday and criticized DeSantis.
“I think the Disney piece is important to differentiate because, as they’re based in Florida and, obviously, the governor there has consistently taken steps to take steps backward as it relates to fighting the pandemic, not forward,” Psaki said.
She also claimed that “60 percent of business leaders wanted to move forward on their own with vaccine requirements.”
“We’ve seen them implemented, at a lot of companies, they’ve been effective, and overall it gives a lot of businesses certainty about their workforce, makes people feel more confident in coming back to work,” Psaki concluded.