The Widening Gulf in the COVID19 Vaccine Battle

A firefighter-plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the legality of a COVID19 vaccine mandate in Orange County, Florida, has been terminated for refusing to issue reprimands to firefighters who did not get vaccinated. That in turn has prompted Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis to call for a special legislative session to enact laws that would prohibit the termination of government employees over vaccine mandates.

Working through the details of this complex case will take a bit, but let’s start with Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 21-81 dated April 2, 2021 prohibiting any Florida business or governmental entity from requiring the disclosure of one’s COVID19 vaccine status. Here is a copy of that executive order:

Next is a decision by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings to essentially thumb his nose at the governor, and mandate vaccines for all county employees. That requirement was announced on July 28, 2021. Full vaccination was required by September 30, but that was later changed to October 31, 2021.

The County’s mandate was then challenged by a lawsuit filed by 43 Orange County firefighters, including Battalion Chief Stephen Davis, on October 1, 2021. While not referencing Governor DeSantis’s Executive Order, it alleges the county’s vaccine mandate is illegal under Florida law and violates the US Constitution. Here is a copy of that lawsuit.

Next was the termination of Chief Davis for – and I quote “refusing to enforce a vaccine mandate he believes is “unlawful.’” Chief Davis was reportedly fired for insubordination last week. Here is news coverage on the termination, including an interview with Chief Davis:

And here is the Governor’s response along with more:

And more:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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