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- United Airlines announces COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees.
- United Airlines who refuse COVID-19 jab will be fired.
- Airline workers with vaccine exemptions will be placed in indefinite leave.
In a company memo sent out yesterday, United Airlines has announced that all airline staff who receive religious, medical or personal exemptions from the mandatory coronavirus vaccination will be sent on unpaid or medical leave indefinitely, regardless of their exemption reason or status.
“Once the pandemic meaningfully recedes, you will be welcomed back to the team on active status,” pilots, flight attendants and customer service agents – described as employees in “operational customer-facing roles” – were told in a memo.
United Airlines employees not directly interacting with passengers, such as dispatchers and mechanics, who have been approved for exemption will be required to get tested weekly and wear a mask at all times when at work, including when outdoors.
Anyone granted a medical exemption will be put on temporary medical leave. Those whose request for exemption is denied will have to take the first shot by September 27 and be fully vaccinated within five weeks or lose their job altogether, according to the memo sent out by VP of human resources Kirk Limacher.
United Airline employees who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine will not be allowed into the workplace after October 2.
United Airlines administration had not specified how willing the carrier would be to actually grant requests for exemption, and the airline hasn’t said how many it has received.
United was the first US airline to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on its 67,000-plus employees, in early August. Other airlines have moved to end pay protections for unvaccinated employees who test positive for the virus. Delta Air Lines has slapped a $200 surcharge on the healthcare premiums of employees who haven’t been vaccinated.
US companies and government agencies are legally required to offer exemptions on religious or medical grounds, though not to actually grant them. The Biden administration has pushed for public and private vaccination mandates as the number of COVID-19 cases in the US has risen over the summer.
Airlines, and pilot and flight attendant unions have eagerly embraced the apparently indefinite extension of the government’s mask mandate, originally imposed in February and intended to last 100 days.
United is the fourth-largest US airline by the number of passengers carried, but has the second-largest fleet and serves the most destinations, according to pre-pandemic statistics.