Help Wanted for United Airlines: Vaccinated Only!

  1. United becomes one of a string of companies recently laying down a mandate that their employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19.
  2. Is this legal? Can an employee be fired for refusing to comply?
  3. Is there a difference between an airline versus a store versus other kinds of employment situations?

Keith Wilkes, a labor and employment partner/shareholder at the national law firm of Hall Estill, has been fielding calls from companies trying to get answers to the legal questions regarding whether or not United, or any company for that matter, can mandate vaccines for workers.

Wilkes answers some important questions of what makes United’s announcement unique from other companies that took similar actions this week.

“United Airlines announced today that it is joining a growing list of companies telling their employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or lose their jobs. United’s announcement marks the first major US airline to implement such a mandate for its 80,000 employees, who will have until late October to provide proof of vaccination or, with a few narrow exceptions, face termination,” Wilkes said.

Here is more of what Wilkes had to share in an interview:

Q: Other large non-healthcare providing employers, such as Google and Facebook, made similar announcements this week. What, if anything, is significant about United joining the ranks of mandating vaccinations for its employees?

Wilkes: In addition to being the first in an industry that millions of people and companies in the U.S. rely upon each day, the United workforce—unlike tech companies and banks—is heavily comprised of union employees. Through collective bargaining agreements and federal labor laws, union members most often find themselves afforded greater protections against new policies being imposed by their employers that may impact whether the employees keep their jobs.

Q: How is United able to impose the new vaccination mandate on its union workforce?

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