Thousands of United workers will be laid off or furloughed as a result of the COVID vaccine mandate.
Employees of United Airlines have till today to prove they’ve had their first COVID-19 shot or risk losing their jobs.
The nation’s second-largest airline said in early August that its 67,000 employees had until October 25 to complete their vaccinations. The action was one of the most aggressive immunization policies ever taken by an American firm, and it rippled across the airline industry, with United competitor Frontier following suit shortly after.
More than 97 percent of the corporation’s U.S. employees have taken the shot as of last week, according to the company. However, this statistic leaves over 2,000 people as holdouts, and it appears that these people will fight back.
Six United employees, including two pilots, a flight attendant, a technician, a customer service representative, and a station operations representative, filed a lawsuit saying that the firm illegally refused religious and medical exemptions to the mandate by making requests difficult to obtain.
Employees were apparently given until August 31 to use an online site to request either medical or religious exemptions, but not both. On October 2, those who had been granted an exemption were warned that they would be placed on “indefinite unpaid leave” with no business perks.
The suit alleges that customer-facing personnel will be on leave “until the danger of COVID is low enough that [United] deem[s]it safe.” Non-customer-facing employees’ vacation would last “‘for some time as [United] works[s]out all the specifics [and]practicalities’ of mitigating measures,” according to the company.
The suit claims that United relied on arbitrary line-drawing instead of engaging in an interactive process with each employee who requested an accommodation. “United’s actions have forced Plaintiffs to choose between losing their livelihoods or receiving the COVID-19 vaccination at the expense of their religious beliefs and health.”
According to the lawsuit, a total of 2,000 or more people could be affected, in addition to the six identified persons. United did not respond to a request from this website for information on how many employees would be affected and potentially fired under the new policy in time for publication.
Previously, a United representative told the Associated Press that the company was “reviewing [the action]in greater detail,” but that “at this point, we believe it is without substance.”
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