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Judge Blocks United Airlines COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

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Published: October 14, 2021
United's COVID-19 vaccine mandate has been hit with a temporary restraining order from court.
United's COVID-19 vaccine mandate has been hit with a temporary restraining order from court. (Image: kikkuru0606 via Pixabay)

A Texas federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the COVID-19 vaccine mandate issued by United Airlines. The company is barred from placing workers who seek exemption from the vaccine on unpaid leave. The decision came as part of a nationwide class-action lawsuit against the company.

Last month, six employees from United Airlines filed a lawsuit after workers who requested a vaccination exemption on medical or religious grounds were going to be put on unpaid leave. 

The lawsuit argued that such a penalty amounted to terminating the unvaccinated employees. It alleged that United Airlines’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

On Sept. 24, the company and the plaintiffs reached an agreement that unvaccinated workers would not be put on leave. A hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction was scheduled for Oct. 8. One day before the hearing, United Airlines argued that the court did not have jurisdiction on some claims and filed a partial motion to dismiss. 

The hearing was then rescheduled to Oct. 13. At this hearing, U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman stressed the need for a TRO that will remain in effect until the end of this month. This would provide the court enough time to respond to the jurisdictional challenge.

“The Court now concludes it is necessary to issue this Temporary Restraining Order to avoid risking irreparable injury and to maintain the status quo in this case pending the Court’s hearing and resolution of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction,” Pittman wrote. He also stated that his order does not represent a ruling on the legality of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The class-action lawsuit was filed by law firm Schaerr Jaffe, representing up to 2,000 employees from United Airlines. The company had earlier mandated employees to get vaccinated by Sept. 27. If they did not, they would be terminated. 

Those who are given exemptions were put on unpaid leave for up to six years, losing out on their benefits as well. Following Pittman’s ruling, the company insisted that vaccine mandates “work” and that most of its employees have chosen to get vaccinated.

United’s “refusal to provide reasonable accommodations to its vaccine mandate violates the federal civil rights protections of our clients, the hard-working men and women at United… We look forward to our clients’ rights being permanently protected,” Mark Paoletta, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told The Epoch Times.

According to a report by Breitbart, United had instituted a “potentially dangerous” respirator mask mandate a few days after the six employees filed the lawsuit.

Starting Oct. 2, all unvaccinated employees were instructed to wear KN95 or N-95 respirator masks. Those who do not wear these respirators could be terminated. Some employees revealed that they had been bullied and isolated since the company introduced the respirator policy. One worker said that some vaccinated junior employees were “happy” about a few senior employees remaining unvaccinated as it offered them a chance to move up.

CEO Scott Kirby recently revealed that 99.7 percent of the company’s workforce has been vaccinated. The airline is in the process of firing 232 employees who have refused to take a COVID-19 shot. The Chicago-based airline employs around 67,000 people.