HealthcareUnited Airlines Rolls Back Vaccine Requirements for Employees

United Airlines announced that it would be changing its policy and that unvaccinated workers would be allowed to return to their normal positions by March 28.
March 14, 2022
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United Airlines, one of the first domestic airlines to require its employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be placed on unpaid leave, announced to its employees last week that it is changing its policy.

On March 28, employees who have been out of work on a “request for reasonable accommodation” will be “welcomed back” to their normal positions, an internal memo to the United employees stated.

United’s vice president of human resources, Kirk Limacher, said in the memo that the policy is being revised because “we’re seeing new case reports reaching their lowest levels since last summer.” But he also stated that “if another variant emerges or the COVID trends suddenly reverse course, we will reevaluate the appropriate safety protocols at that time.”

Limacher also praised the vaccine policy in his memo saying that “our vaccinated employees have been significantly less likely to lose their lives to COVID.”

United was sued in September by a North Texas pilot, David Sambrano, and several other employees who asked the court for an injunction that would prevent them from terminating or placing on unpaid leave any employee who has a basis for seeking a religious or medical exemption.

The Texan Tumbler

While the injunction was initially denied, the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Fifth Circuit found that the airline had caused irreparable injury by requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be placed on indefinite unpaid leave.

The district court has been reversed and the case remanded for further consideration of the preliminary injunction.

The plaintiff’s attorney, John Sullivan, told The Texan, “We are gratified to see United returning employees to work since they should have never been put on unpaid leave for their faith or health.  Hopefully people are beginning to see that individual rights should not be swept aside even during a pandemic.” 

According to United’s memo, the employees currently out on unpaid leave with a “reasonable accommodation” should have received an email from the company “with specific instructions and a more precise timeline for a return to active status – or modifications to their existing [reasonable accommodation] if they are currently performing non-customer facing work activities.”

The most recent case counts in Texas show approximately 1,762 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the state. That includes “the total number of patients in Texas hospitals who have tested positive for COVID-19.”

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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.