Norwegian Cruise Wins Florida Covid-19 Vaccine Passport Ban lawsuit

Florida’s showdown over whether companies can require customers to show proof of a Covid-19 vaccine has ended in legal loss.

United States District Judge Kathleen M. Williams has granted Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) a preliminary injunction that would allow a cruise line to require passengers to prove they are vaccinated against Covid -19 if they leave Florida.

Judge Williams said on the record that the combination of trying to restore consumer confidence and the Delta variant helped NCLH win.

“Businesses face unprecedented challenges, including the naturally difficult tasks of restoring consumer confidence and minimizing the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the country is now threatened by new variants of the virus that are more transmissible than the original strain. “

NCLH sued Florida because it wanted to make sure everyone on its ships was vaccinated, which would violate a Florida law that was passed earlier this year banning such a practice.

In May, the Florida legislature passed and Governor DeSantis enacted a bill stating that all business entities “cannot require customers or customers to provide documents certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery. to access, enter or service business operations in that state, ”subject to the imposition of a fine not exceeding $ 5,000 per violation.

The cruise line sued Florida so that it could resume departures from Florida on Norwegian Gem on August 15, 2021, and the company had adopted a policy requiring all passengers on its ships to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to provide documents confirming their vaccination status before boarding.

NCLH argued that the law violated its First Amendment rights and dormant commerce clause claims.

Judge Williams ruled that the fact that the law allows companies to require proof of a Covid-19 vaccine for its employees, while not being able to demand the same proof from its customers, makes it known as a “restriction content-based “.

The judge pointed out that the law prevents proving that a guest is vaccinated, but allows cruise lines to limit unvaccinated passengers’ access to events, activities and locations.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas does not have access to certain restaurants, casino, art auctions, indoor pool or spa and during shows they must sit in the back of the theater. (DE 35-1 through 22-29.) Princess and Carnival also have limited excursions available to unvaccinated guests at ports of call. Thus, article 381.00316 does not prohibit companies from treating unvaccinated passengers differently by making them pay more while offering them less.

She also stressed that adult-only cruises, which exclude a significant number of unvaccinated people (children), are not prohibited by law.

In summary, if the goal were to fight discrimination, simply banning the exchange of COVID-19 vaccination documents is an ineffective way to achieve this goal because the Statute does not directly prohibit the treatment of people who are not. vaccinated or those who refuse to verify their vaccination status in companies and employers differently.

Additionally, client privacy is not protected by the law, claiming it is “far too restrictive” to protect medical privacy, if that was the purpose of the law.

The statute does not govern employers, who are free to require COVID-19 vaccination documents from employees, and the respondent does not explain why the exchange of these documents is less intrusive on medical confidentiality in the context of the ‘use.

The judge stressed that businesses and employers can demand Covid-19 test results, hospital records, other vaccination records, as well as information regarding exposure to third parties with Covid-19. Therefore, Florida has not explained why the Covid-19 vaccination proof documents are more medically sensitive or need more protection than these other documents.

During the hearing, it was disclosed that the law does not prohibit a company from providing its Covid-19 vaccine status orally, nor does it prevent a company from retaining, disclosing or publishing Covid-vaccination status. 19 of one person.

Cruise lines have subjected unvaccinated passengers to various policies that easily disclose their unvaccinated status.

Royal Caribbean provides unvaccinated guests with a “hole drilled in their SeaPass” to indicate their status to crew members and separates those passengers on a deck from the main dining area

In addition to NCLH’s First Amendment claim, Judge Williams agrees that the law imposes substantial charges on interstate commerce that will directly affect their ability to operate the Norwegian Gem and other ships.

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