JudicialStatewide NewsNorth Texas Employees Appeal Denied Injunction Against United Airlines Over Vaccine Mandate

A North Texas United Airlines pilot and other employees are seeking relief after a district judge declined to prevent the airline from placing the employees, who sought vaccine exemptions, on unpaid leave.
November 29, 2021
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North Texas U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman denied a preliminary injunction to the employees of United Airlines who were seeking relief from negative employment actions taken by the company due to the COVID-19 vaccine requirements. 

Now the employees are appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

The employees, who sought religious and medical exemptions from the mandate, originally filed suit in September seeking relief. Pittman initially granted a temporary restraining order against United on October 12, preventing it from placing any employee on unpaid leave if that employee was granted a religious or medical exemption. 

On October 20, before the expiration of the temporary restraining order, Pittman required the parties to engage in mediation. A joint mediation report filed with the court on November 2 stated that no settlement had been reached by the parties.

The court entered an order on November 8 denying the employees’ request for a preliminary injunction. Pittman pointed out in his order that the lawsuit was not directed at the vaccine mandate itself but more specifically argued that United has not reasonably accommodated employees seeking exemptions and may have retaliated against them. 

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In his order, Pittman said the motion “must be denied because Plaintiffs do not clearly carry their burden to show they would suffer imminent, irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction.”

The employees asked the court to reconsider its decision but were denied.

They have now filed an interlocutory appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. An interlocutory appeal is one made to a higher court before the matter has been finally decided in the district court. The airline employees are appealing the denial of their requested injunction, but are not appealing the entire case at this point.

Pending appeal, the plaintiff employees again sought an injunction preventing the airline from placing them on unpaid leave, but that motion was also denied.

No hearings have been set at the Fifth Circuit in the case yet.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a nationwide stay in early November in cases filed against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees.

“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby STAYED pending further action by this court,” wrote Reagan-appointed Circuit Judge Edith Jones along with Trump-appointed Judges Kyle Duncan and Kurt Engelhardt.

Those cases have been consolidated with others and assigned to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in Cincinnati, Ohio. The timing of a final decision in the case is uncertain.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.