In recently released court douments, six United Airlines employees sued the Chicago-based carrier because of the airlines vaccine mandate. In an effort to appease the employees, the carrier offered the six employees six years of unpaid leave if they refuse vaccination.
According to Mark Paoletta, a lawyer at Schaerr-Jaffe representing the United employees
“We filed this lawsuit to protect the rights of honest, hardworking United employees who have religious or medical reasons not to receive the COVID19 vaccine”.
Paoletta also calls United’s vaccine policy a “draconian mandate”.
United Airlines announced last month that unvaccinated employees will need to get the vaccine by September 27, 2021. Additionally, the airline agreed to make exceptions for medical and religious reasons.
Customer-facing employees including gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants who don't receive the vaccine will face indefinite leave starting October 2. In a memo to employees United said those who don't get the vaccine will only return once the pandemic “meaningfully recedes."
Things are a bit different for employees who don’t deal with passengers, such as baggage handlers and mechanics. Those who refuse to get vaccinated will also be put on leave. However, the unpaid leave will only be in effect until United can develop weekly testing and a mandatory mask-wearing policy for their workgroup.
United’s spokesperson said “more than 97% of our US employees are vaccinated”. The spokesperson added that they are reviewing the lawsuit filed by six United Airlines employees, however, they stated “we think it’s without merit."
Civil Rights Act
According to the United employees’ lawyers, United should accommodate employees according to the Civil Rights Act.
“This is not about how effective the vaccines are or whether United may mandate vaccination”. He added that “The fact is that some people have sincere religious objections to the COVID19 vaccine, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to respect and accommodate those beliefs”.
United’s CEO Scott Kirby said that only a small number of employees quit over the vaccine mandate.
Kirby expects “to have more by the time it finishes." However, he remains positive that “it’s going to be a very low number that ultimately choose to leave."