Since COVID-19 vaccines have become widely available, employers across the country including the Walt Disney World Resort, have begun issuing vaccination mandates requiring employees to become fully vaccinated by set dates or face termination. With new bills signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), you may be wondering how this will impact businesses like Walt Disney World that have already been requiring employee vaccinations.
In a statement regarding the new laws, DeSantis reinforced his belief that his administration is “making sure that people have a right to earn a living. [They are] respecting people’s individual freedom” in the state of Florida. Obviously some employers, like Disney disagree, with the Walt Disney World Resort functioning as the largest single site employer not only in Florida but in the entire country reaching an agreement with Cast Member unions to require vaccinations from Cast Members earlier this year.
The law includes four sections, with a primary focus on disallowing local governments from requiring vaccines by employees. (It should be noted that DeSantis originally pushed for a stricter version of the law but did not receive the support needed to push such a bill through.) For private employers, the new law asserts that exemptions are required for employees who refuse the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons, as are employees who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 or who have agreed to weekly COVID-19 testing in place of the vaccine.
(Testing as an alternative has already been commonplace among employers with vaccine mandates and events or travel destinations where vaccines are required, however in many distances the testing component is in place for those people who have religious or medical exemptions- They are not intended to allow others to simply refuse the vaccine)
In terms of what the new law means for Disney Cast Members— Not much, actually. Since Walt Disney World is a private employer and not a part of local government, only the sections of the law relating to private businesses applies. As a result, Disney must accept religious or medical accommodations for Cast Members who cannot be vaccinated for those reasons.
DeSantis has previously blocked local Florida communities from requiring masks as well, though in Orange County where Walt Disney World is located local governments have recommended people wear masks indoors, and as of this writing Walt Disney World still has its own indoor mask requirements for Guests everywhere on property. Cast Members are still required to wear masks indoors while onstage, but may now remove them when they are distanced backstage.
We will keep you updated here on Disney Fanatic as Disney works through the phases of updating COVID restrictions at a later date and if more information comes out of the DeSantis administration.