In a ruling sent down by a federal judge this past Tuesday, United Airlines may soon not be able to place their currently unvaccinated employees on forced unpaid leave if they have put in requests for a medical or religious exemption to the newly established draconian COVID-19 vaccine policy sported by the company.
Back in August, United Airlines sent out documentation that announced that its entire 67,000 person U.S. staff would be mandated to receive the COVID-19 vaccine under threat of termination. The company also released that any and all employees who sought a medical or religious exemption from the new draconian mandate would be placed on indefinite unpaid leave.
The vast majority of the U.S. employees had already been vaccinated back in August, which comes out to be roughly 90% of its pilots and 80% of its flight attendants, but a group of almost 2,000 individuals put in requests for religious or medical exemptions, as reported by the company.
A group of six employees who had put in such requests, which included two pilots, slammed the company with a lawsuit attempting to make the argument that United has engaged in a “pattern of discrimination against employees who requested religious or medical accommodations.” The group went on to state that the unpaid leave policy would be the same thing as making the employees “effectively terminated.”
This past Tuesday, Mark Pittman, a U.S. District Judge out of Fort Worth, Texas, weighed in on the case and granted a temporary restraining order to the employee group who were suing the company. The order blocked United from halting the paychecks of the employees who were officially requesting a medical or religious vaccine exemption.
As stated by the judge, United had already put an agreement in place to not force the unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave, but the established agreement was slated to end well before a resolution to the case could be decided.
“The court is not currently ruling on the merits of the parties’ arguments on these points,” explained the judge in his order. “Rather the court seeks simply to avoid the risk of irreparable harm to the parties and to maintain the status quo while the court holds an evidentiary hearing.”
The judge also put a restraint on the airline that kept them from flat out denying late requests for any medical or religious accommodations, as reported by Reuters.
In response, United put forth a statement in defense of its vaccine mandate and tried to assure everyone that it is thinking about how to give the workers options.
“Vaccine requirements work and nearly all of United’s U.S. employees have chosen to get a shot. For a number of our employees who were approved for an accommodation, we’re working to put options in place that reduce the risk to their health and safety, including new testing regimens, temporary job reassignments and masking protocols,” stated United.
The temporary order from the judge is slated to last until the 26th of October.