United employees sue the airline over exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, as the company announces 97% of workers have gotten the shot

United Airlines
A group of United employees sued United, claiming that the company practiced discrimination by refusing their requests for vaccine exemptions.

Up to the September 27th deadline, more than 97% of airline employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

United Airlines was the first US airline to require that its employees were vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to continue working.

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Six United Airlines employees filed a lawsuit against United Airlines claiming that the company discriminated against them through its vaccine mandate.

The suit was filed in Texas federal court Tuesday. It alleges that the company failed to respond to employees' requests for medical or religious exemptions from COVID-19. This they claim violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit also stated that United's policy of "indefinite unpaid vacation" did not provide reasonable accommodations for unvaccinated employees.

According to the lawsuit, "United's actions left Plaintiffs with an impossible choice: either take the COVID-19 vaccination, at the cost of their religious beliefs, or lose their livelihood."

There are three positions that the plaintiffs have in the company: two pilots, one flight attendant and several operations/service representatives. According to the lawsuit, they applied for at least one exemption but were denied and placed on "indefinite unpaid leaves" by the company.

Insider has yet to hear back from United Airlines.

The airline announced Wednesday that 97% percent of its employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19. United was the first major US airline that issued a mandate to vaccinate its employees.

This is less than one week before the September 27th company-wide vaccine deadline, which was announced in August. In the original announcement, the company stated that all employees who deal with customers would need to be immunized against the coronavirus in order to continue work after September's deadline. Exceptions for religious or medical reasons were not allowed. The company will allow employees on leave to return to work once they feel it is safe to do so. However, until then, no pay would be given.

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According to the company, it encourages but not requires its passengers to get vaccinated.

Scott Kirby, United Airlines CEO, stated that the company had accepted most of the exemption requests received. However, some requests were denied after vetting. Kirby stated that only "a few" employees had quit because of the vaccine requirement. He also said that the company expected more resignations before the deadline for vaccines, but "it will be a very small number of people who ultimately decide to leave."

Delta Airlines also has a system in place for unvaccinated employees, allowing them to increase their health insurance and deny any refusal to get the vaccine. American Airlines has stopped offering special pandemic leave to its employees who are not vaccinated, and Alaska Airlines has announced that it will no longer offer paid time off for workers who have COVID.

Business Insider has the original article.

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