A federal judge in Texas ordered United Airlines to temporarily halt its plan to put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave if they have requested an exemption from the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
United Airlines announced Aug. 6 that the Chicago-based airline was requiring all 67,000 of its U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated. At the time, the airline said about 90% of pilots and 80% of flight attendants had already been vaccinated.
But for the small portion of employees that refused to get a coronavirus vaccine and requested either a medical or religious exemption from United, the company said it would place those workers on unpaid leave.
Six employees filed a federal lawsuit over this policy arguing unpaid leave is not a reasonable accommodation, but rather an adverse employment action.
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman responded to that lawsuit Tuesday by ordering a temporary restraining order on United to hold off on removing any worker requesting those exemptions from the payroll. That’s just until he can hear arguments in the case at a later date.
Vaccine mandates are becoming all too common. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue also joined United Airlines in requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Research has shown that workplaces with vaccine mandates are seeing vaccination rates of 90% or higher, where even the most hesitant have chosen to get the shots.
But a minority of people are engaging in battles over these mandates as they pop up in the workplace as well as in other facets of everyday life.
Major cities including Los Angeles are implementing strict proof-of-vaccine ordinances for restaurants, gyms and other establishments. Los Angeles County employees were also required to be vaccinated by Oct. 1.
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