According to reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flew to Florida at the end of October for a face-to-face meeting with NextEra Energy Chairman and CEO Jim Robo at the company's Juno Beach headquarters, as told by several employees at the location. The meeting was noteworthy because, in addition to its recent declaration that "no company is better equipped to take advantage of the broad decarbonization of the U.S. economy than NextEra Energy," the world's largest energy provider also announced a company-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate days later. With currently 80% of its employees fully vaccinated, every NextEra Energy employee without an accommodation will be required to comply later than Jan. 10, 2022.
In unchartered territory with millions of Americans anxious for answers, there are currently several lawsuits challenging Joe Biden's Vaccine Mandate for federal employees. UncoverDC has reported extensively on Church v. Biden, where currently, Defendants—the U.S. government—have until Jan. 11, 2022, to respond to the complaint following the Court's Nov. 9, 2021 order. Additionally, on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals halted the federal government's implementation of its OSHA Vaccine Mandate on private employers with 100 or more employees. While good news for private employees, frustrated federal employees are anxious for the courts to step up and protect their freedom over the Biden administration's draconian vaccine mandate.
NextEra Says Mandate is Based on 'Duty to Customers,' Not EO
Executive Order (EO) 14043 was signed by Joe Biden on Sept. 9, 2021, mandating that all federal employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Interestingly, internal NextEra Energy communications shared exclusively with UncoverDC insist the company's vaccine mandate is not the result of Biden's vaccine everyone narrative. Instead, the company asserts that mandatory mass vaccination of its employees with experimental COVID-19 vaccines is "the right thing to do for our customers, our employees, and their families."
CEO Robo says the decision is based upon, among other factors, "data showing that the vaccines are safe and effective and will protect our employees." Internal communications also contend that the company's "duty to keep the lights on" requires sacrifice and is irrelevant to the recent actions of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or any pending litigation. Florida's special legislative session to address vaccine mandates begins Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. In a news conference last week, Gov. DeSantis spoke of the special session, saying:
"We're going to be saving a lot of jobs in the state of Florida. We're going to be striking a blow for freedom. We're going to be standing up against the Biden mandates. And we're going to be better as a result of it."
Screenshot / NextEra Vaccine Mandate FAQ
Antigen Testing Leading Up To The Mandate
Leading up to the mandate, Executive Vice President Deb Caplan sent a message on Oct. 7, 2021, instructing company leaders to scold those employees not in compliance with the company's COVID-19 twice-weekly antigen testing program. The notice explains that when an employee is out of compliance, "human resources notifies them, reinforcing their responsibility to comply with the program immediately." Placing company leaders in the position of knowing the private health status of their fellow employees, the message instructed:
"If non-compliance continues, the employee's leader (and the leader's leader) is notified of the specific individual on their team who is non-compliant and is required to give them a verbal warning, the first step of disciplinary action. If an employee continues to be out of compliance, further discipline with follow, up to and including termination. We understand these can be difficult conversations, but we need leaders to execute the disciplinary action within three (3) business days of the request from human resources."
Screenshot / NextEra email instructing leaders to discipline unvaccinated employees who do not comply with the antigen testing program.
With the announcement of the vaccine mandate, twice-weekly reporting of antigen testing is still required for employees who have not self-reported their vaccine status. The testing protocol remains in place until an employee is fully vaccinated and has self-reported that status.
Advance Notice of Vaccine Mandate to NextEra Energy Leaders
On Nov. 1, 2021, at approximately 10:00 AM, leaders at NextEra Energy were given advance notice of the pending new COVID-19 vaccination policy for all employees. Calling it an "emotional topic," leaders were instructed that, during this challenging time, they may have to deal with employees who "will now need to decide whether to comply with the vaccination requirement, apply for a disability (medical condition) or sincerely held religious belief or potentially leave the company." Leaders were reminded to consult the Leader Toolkit (see gallery below) provided to them for ways to deal with reactions including upset, distracted, and less engaged employees.
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Hours away from being thrust into the role of vaccine compliance officers privy to the confidential medical information of their employees, team leaders were told that on Nov. 2, they would be given access to the list of employees "who have not self-reported their vaccine status to HR." Likewise, the non-compliant employees were informed that their leaders would soon have access to their private health information.
In addition to monitoring and encouraging compliance with the vaccine mandate, the toolkit instructs leaders how to document and report possible intentional work stoppages in response to the mandate. The Leader Toolkit explains that "this advance intel allow[s] the issue to be resolved prior to any job action" and keeps the company a step ahead of employee violations that could result in disciplinary action.
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According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), vaccination status is considered confidential medical information. As such, it can be disclosed on a need-to-know basis. EEOC's COVID-19 Guidance has made clear that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), employers are generally permitted to inquire about vaccination status because the question is not a disability-related inquiry or medical examination. Still, legal concerns have been raised related to Florida Statute 501.17—security of confidential personal information.
Company-wide Announcement of Vaccine Mandate
On Nov. 1, 2021, an hour after team leaders were informed of the new COVID-19 vaccine policy, Jim Robo emailed NextEra Energy's nearly 15,000 employees telling them of his vaccine mandate decision. He explained that, despite the 80% vaccination rate at the company, the "roughly 20% of our team who remain unvaccinated represent the wide majority of the positive employee cases we continue to track, including the most severe case." He continued, reminding of his $1,000 incentive offer to employees who meet vaccine criteria by Dec. 1. Robo, who hasn't ruled out mandating booster shots in the future, further explained his demand for all employees to get the experimental COVID-19 jab, adding:
"Put simply, being "good" on our vaccination rate is not enough to protect the collective health and safety of our workforce. Only vaccinating all of our NextEra Energy team will do that, and this is why I made this decision."
Screenshot / NextEra company-wide email announcing vaccine mandate.
Screenshot / NextEra correspondence sent to all non-bargaining employees who, according to their self-reporting, are not fully vaccinated.
Screenshot / Accommodation Request information.
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NextEra Energy Vaccine Policy states that employees who are not fully vaccinated by the Jan. 10, 2022 deadline and are not currently in the accommodation review process (deadline to submit is Dec. 3, 2021) will be placed on unpaid leave for five days. During that time, employees will not be permitted to perform any work—their cyber and physical work access will be restricted—and will have the opportunity to comply with the policy. If they fail to get vaccinated during that time, their employment will be terminated, and benefits like insurance will cease shortly after that. The policy explains:
"If an employee does not take action to comply during their unpaid leave by getting their first shot in a 2-dose series or a single shot in a 1-dose series and self-report proof of their vaccination status by emailing [the company], then the employee will be separated."
Screenshot / NextEra's employee instructions for vaccine injury.
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NextEra Employee Guidelines For Communications With The Public
On Nov. 4, 2021, following the company-wide announcement of its vaccine mandate and the disclosure to its leaders of the private vaccine status of "non-compliant" employees, all NextEra Energy employees received an email outlining "guidelines for communicating with the public." The email from "Marketing and Communications" outlined what to do if approached by the media. The directive warned employees to "be aware that what you say or share on social media can affect the company's reputation."
Screenshot / NextEra guidelines for communications with the public
The public communications guidelines instruct employees not to respond to any inquiries from news media, bloggers, the investment community, and other external parties without being specifically requested to do so by an authorized company representative in either marketing or investor relations.
Natural Immunity Will Not Be Considered and Pregnant Must Comply
As noted in the company's COVID-19 Vaccination Policy Frequently Asked Questions manual (see photo gallery above), natural immunity obtained after recovering from COVID-19 infection will not be considered. NextEra's decision ignores broad efforts by leading experts and lawmakers to openly and honestly discuss natural immunity, alternative treatments, and COVID-19. Not open for discussion, company employees who have completely recovered from COVID-19 must be fully vaccinated. Antibody testing is not acceptable.
Additionally, despite no long-term clinical trials, the mandatory vaccine policy applies to employees who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or might become pregnant in the future. The manual explains that "the general consensus" by many organizations (including the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, International Federation of Fertility Societies, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Society of Gynecologic Oncology, and the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists) "is that those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should get the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as those who are breastfeeding and that the likely benefits outweigh the risks."
The Politics Driving NextEra Energy
Clearly in sync with whoever controls the White House, NextEra Energy, which began in 1925 as Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL), is on the same financial page with Joe Biden and his climate change agenda. On Nov. 9., FPL (now a subsidiary of NextEra Energy) sought approval to collect an additional $810 million from customers in 2022 as high natural gas prices—a direct result of the pandemic—drive up costs for electric utilities. The request, filed at Florida's Public Service Commission, explained that the company tried to limit fuel costs by taking steps such as expanding the use of solar energy and upgrading power plants to make them operate more efficiently.
Screenshot / energyandpolicy.org; Funding to Consumers for Smart Solar for Amendment 1 as of Oct. 28, 2016
Indeed, after spending millions leading up to the 2016 election to block homeowners from embracing solar, in 2022, NextEra Energy is set to lead the way in what is predicted to be a record year for wind and solar in the United States. Yet, in 2015 and 2016, Florida Power & Light was the biggest bankroller of a deceptive ballot initiative undoubtedly designed to confuse voters and protect the monopoly utilities. In addition to introducing legislation that would stall rooftop solar, NextEra also fought against hydropower and pushed for an energy project next to a treasured national park.
Under the Joe Biden era, as explained by Bloomberg in an article titled "America's Greenest Energy Giant Isn't Trying to Save the Planet," few companies are better poised than NextEra Energy to benefit from the current initiatives and policies that aim to push the U.S. into a future of zero-emissions electricity. Notwithstanding who is commanding the oval office, NextEra's strategy revolves around taking advantage of state and federal incentives and dodging publicity. The company makes use of state-level requirements for utilities to buy more renewable power, targeting building projects in those states before wind and solar became cheap enough to be profitable nationwide.
"NextEra isn't a cheerleader for climate action like cleantech stalwarts Sunrun Inc. or Tesla Inc., and its CEO, James Robo, doesn't tweet about saving the world. Founded as an ordinary Florida utility almost a century ago, the company backed into renewables by taking a stake in early wind farms whose developers owed it money. Since then, it has shrewdly used dealmaking, scale, tax credits, and aggressive lobbying to grow into a powerhouse—all while keeping such a low profile that most people have never heard of it."