Florida files brief in Gainesville vaccine case

The Florida Attorney General’s Office has filed a brief in support of workers who are challenging Gainesville’s vaccine requirement for city employees, claiming the mandate will create a shortage of police officers and threaten public safety.

The amicus—or friend of the court—brief makes two arguments in support of the approximately 200 city workers who filed a lawsuit against the city: that the mandate will “exacerbate the police shortage that Florida and the rest of the country are facing” and that a state law barring vaccine passports also protects city workers from being fired based on vaccination status.

“We welcome the [Attorney General’s] participation,” Jeff Childers, the local attorney who is representing the employees, said in a text message Tuesday night. “It gives hope to our plaintiffs who recognize that someone hears them.”

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The Gainesville City Commission voted 4-3 in August to require city employees to be fully vaccinated. Employees and city contractors must show proof of the initial vaccine dose by Oct. 1 and must be fully vaccinated no later than Oct. 31.

Childers filed a lawsuit with Florida’s Eighth Judicial Circuit on behalf of the workers in late August asking for an injunction to end the mandate.

The attorney general’s brief argues that the injunction is needed because any plan by the city to fire unvaccinated police officers “is contrary to public safety and is therefore contrary to the public interest.”

It also argues that a Florida law banning governments, schools and businesses from requiring people to show proof of vaccination or COVID-19 status also protects city workers from having to show proof of vaccination for continued employment.

Attorney General Ashley Moody told a Newberry crowd Monday at press conference with the governor: “As your attorney general, I am standing up for the over 200 employees that have risked their jobs and they have bravely filed suit against their city saying ‘You will not fire us for making our own personal medical decisions.'”

The brief was electronically filed with the Eighth Circuit on Monday afternoon. However, because the case was erroneously listed as closed on the Alachua County Court Records website, the brief was not available to view until late Tuesday afternoon.

Judge Monica Brasington has set a Sept. 20 hearing date for the lawsuit, and given the city until Wednesday to file any written response to the lawsuit.

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