U.S. judge confirms United Airlines COVID-19 vaccine warrant for employees


Nov. 8 (Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge ruled on Monday that United Airlines Holdings Inc (UAL.O) can impose a COVID-19 vaccination mandate on its employees that only provides unpaid leave to exempt workers for medical or religious reasons.

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman in Fort Worth, Texas, dismissed employees’ arguments that the airline was wrongly putting them in an “impossible position” by forcing them to choose a vaccine or unpaid leave.

Pittman criticized United Airlines’ approach to employees seeking religious exemptions, but ultimately said human resources policy was on the rise at the company and no employee was forced to agree a vaccine.

An employee lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The move comes as U.S. employers prepare to comply with rules issued by the Biden administration that require companies with at least 100 employees to vaccinate their workers against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing. Read more

Employers’ mandates, which include religious and medical exemptions, have generally been upheld by the courts. United Airlines was the first major airline to impose a vaccine requirement and others have since followed.

United has granted around 2,000 exemptions. But employees in positions such as pilots, flight attendants and customer service agents had to take unpaid leave until the pandemic was over.

United said in a statement it was happy with the move and would try to find “non-customer-oriented” roles for exempt employees. If they refuse, they will be put on leave, United said.

The plaintiffs alleged that United violated their legal obligations by not accepting exempt employees as most companies did by allowing them to continue in their role while undergoing regular testing and wearing a mask . They also said they would lose their seniority and other benefits if they were put on leave.

The company said allowing unvaccinated employees in the workplace would compromise the safety of its flights, although Pittman noted that the company acknowledged there was almost no chance of COVID-19 outbreaks. in his planes.

Pittman said he was “disturbed” by United’s seemingly thoughtless approach to his employees’ concerns about taking the vaccine.

“United’s tenure therefore reflects an apathy, if not antipathy, for many of the concerns of its employees and a lack of tolerance for those who express a diversity of thought.”

Legal complaints relating to exemption arrangements are usually dealt with through an administrative process with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission before legal action is filed.

Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Chris Reese and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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