United Airlines will soon be expelling 593 of its employees who failed to comply with the company’s vaccine mandate. In August, United Airlines became the first American carrier to implement a vaccine mandate, demanding that workers be vaccinated by Sept. 27 or else face termination by Oct. 2.
In a Sept. 28 memo sent to employees, United Airlines informed employees that they would soon begin the firing process. The company claimed that 99 percent of United employees have been vaccinated.
“For the less than 1 [percent] of people who decided to not get vaccinated, we’ll unfortunately begin the process of separation from the airline per our policy… This was an incredibly difficult decision but keeping our team safe has always been our first priority. The pandemic is now killing more than 2,000 people per day—a 65 [percent] increase in just the past 30 days—and the most effective way to keep our people safe, is to make sure they’re vaccinated,” stated a memo obtained by The Epoch Times.
The 99 percent vaccination claim does not include workers who have applied for a medical or religious exemption. Less than three percent of the workforce have applied for an exemption.
Employees approved for an exemption will be placed on unpaid medical leave beginning Oct. 2. In addition to losing wages, exempt employees will also lose their medical coverage and other benefits.
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Six employees have already filed a lawsuit against United Airlines, arguing that the vaccine mandate violates the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
On Sept. 28, their attorneys announced that United Airlines had temporarily delayed applying the vaccine mandate on employees, extending exemptions to Oct. 15. A judge is scheduled to hear arguments and evidence on the case on Oct. 8.
United Airlines has also dismissed arguments that the vaccine mandate requirement will make it harder for the company to hire employees. A spokesperson said that they received 700 applications for 400 postings from a career fair last month. For its 2,000 flight attendant job positions, the airline has received over 20,000 applications. Over the next few years, the company plans on hiring 25,000 more. COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for all new hires.
Despite some employees protesting against United Airlines’ vaccine mandate, public sentiment does not appear to be on their side. “There’s public policy in favor of vaccine mandates, so it’s almost impossible for an employee to argue that it’s against public policy to terminate them as long as the employer provided exemptions on medical and religious grounds,” Aditi Bagchi, a labor law professor at Fordham University School of Law, told The New York Times.
Other airlines have also implemented stringent vaccine requirements. Alaska Airlines is offering its employees $200 to show proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated employees will have to participate in vaccine education programs while following protocols like social distancing and masking.
American Airlines is offering a $50 gift card to those who are vaccinated by Oct. 1. Employees who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination will not be eligible for special leave in the event they contract the disease and have to be quarantined.
While not all airlines have mandated vaccinations, the situation might soon change as President Joe Biden issued an order last month requiring all companies employing 100 or more workers to impose vaccine mandates.“If indeed the mandate now is everyone must be vaccinated, or rigorously tested, tested once a week, we will obviously comply by that mandate. All along, as we’ve been going through this, we have been considering mandates and may have done one on our own. But what we wanted to do was do everything we could first to encourage everyone to do so,” Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, told the Washington Post.