Nam Y. Huh / AP
A federal judge in Texas ordered United Airlines to temporarily suspend its plan to put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave if they requested an exemption from the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
United Airlines announced on August 6 that the Chicago-based airline is requiring all of its 67,000 US-based employees to be vaccinated. At the time, the airline said around 90% of pilots and 80% of flight attendants had already been vaccinated.
But for the small portion of employees who refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and requested medical or religious exemption from United, the company said it would put those workers on unpaid leave.
Six employees have filed a federal complaint about the policy, arguing that unpaid leave is not reasonable accommodation, but rather adverse employment action.
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman responded to the lawsuit on Tuesday by ordering a temporary injunction on United to suspend the withdrawal of any worker seeking these payroll exemptions. That’s just until he can hear the arguments in the case at a later date.
Pittman’s temporary restraining order expires on October 26.
United Airlines issued a statement, according to reports:
“The vaccine requirements are working and almost all of United’s US employees have chosen to be vaccinated. For a number of our employees who have been approved for accommodation, we strive to put in place options that reduce the risks to their health and safety, including new test patterns, temporary job reassignments and masking protocols. ”
Fighting continues over COVID-19 mandates
Eduardo Munoz Avarez / AP
Vaccination mandates are becoming more and more common. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue have also joined United Airlines in demanding that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Research has shown that workplaces with vaccination mandates have vaccination rates of 90% or more, where even the most hesitant have chosen to be vaccinated.
But a minority of people engage in battles over these mandates as they emerge in the workplace as well as in other facets of daily life.
Major cities, including Los Angeles, are implementing strict proof of vaccination orders for restaurants, gyms, and other establishments. Los Angeles County employees were also due to be vaccinated by October 1.
But LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he had no plans to execute the warrant.
The world of sport has also been impacted by the refusal of a big star to be vaccinated.
Brooklyn Nets All-Star goalie Kyrie Irving will not be allowed to train or play in games, likely due to New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for professional athletes. Irving dodged several questions from reporters earlier this month about his immunization status.
The rejection of these mandates is also a global problem.
Over the weekend, Italy’s strict requirement for workers to show proof of a coronavirus vaccine prompted political opponents to protest. The protests turned violent as some protesters caused damage in Rome.
United Airlines has said that for the most part their vaccination mandate has been successful. The company said more than 99% of its US-based employees have met the company’s requirement to be vaccinated or have requested a religious or medical exemption.