United Airlines Employees Sue the Company Over Vaccine Requirement

Employees of United Airlines have filed a lawsuit against the company over their Covid-19 vaccination requirement. In August, United said that more than half of its 67,000 U.S.-based workers who were not vaccinated would be forced to receive the vaccination by September 27. The company says they offered medical or religious exemptions, but employees claim that is not the case.

In early September, reports surfaced that United was no longer honoring vaccination exemptions for certain employees. “Pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, and airport customer service agents who interact with customers who are granted those exemptions can return to work once the pandemic meaningfully recedes.” Employees with exemptions who seldom interact with customers, such as luggage handlers and mechanics will also be placed on leave but only until the company develops a strategy for weekly testing and enforcing mandatory mask-wearing for them.

Employees at the company’s headquarters who have been granted exemptions will be placed on leave until United decides on safety measures, including if the individual needs to return to the office.

According to the six employee plaintiffs, United has refused to accept vaccination accommodation requests and instead proposed six years of unpaid leave to individuals who reject the vaccine. Mark Paoletta, of Schaerr-Jaffe, is one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. He told Fox Business, “We filed this lawsuit to protect the rights of honest, hardworking United Airlines employees who have religious or medical reasons not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. United has refused to grant any accommodations, and these employees are scared by United’s draconian mandate that forces them to either get the vaccine or lose their job. That’s unacceptable in America.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs contend that United must provide reasonable accommodations for employees under the Civil Rights Act, such as mandating masks and testing for unvaccinated personnel. Even the Biden administration’s latest vaccine requirement recognizes Covid-19 testing as an alternative to vaccination. Paoletta said, “This is not about how effective the vaccines are or whether United can mandate vaccination. The fact is that some people have sincere religious objections to the Covid-19 vaccine, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to respect and accommodate those beliefs. United has failed to do this.”

According to attorneys, the plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order against United’s proposal to place unvaccinated employees on six years of unpaid leave on behalf of a class of roughly 2,000 employees.

A spokesperson for United said, “The most effective thing we can do as an airline to protect the health and safety of all our employees is to require the vaccine — excluding the small number of people who have sought an exemption, more than 97% of our US employees are vaccinated. And we’ve been encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response from employees across all workgroups since we announced the policy last month. We’re reviewing this complaint in greater detail, but at this point, we think it’s without merit.”

The same report claims Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom, an organization of US airline employees working to defend religious liberties and medical freedoms of workers, stated, “These past few months have been an extremely difficult time for many. We have listened to and supported thousands of co-workers who have been distraught by this draconian process. Based on the facts alleged in the complaint, we are confident that the judge and the public will side with the thousands of United employees who are bravely standing up for the religious and medical rights of all Americans.”

 

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