Federal Judge has ruled in this matter United AirlinesEmployers who have not been vaccinated can take unpaid time off, even though they were granted religious or medical exemptions.
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman in Fort Worth, Texas, expressed sympathy for the employees in his ruling Monday and even called United’s handling of their vaccine concerns “calloused.” But the employees are not in an “impossible position” as they claimed and they did not prove that “they would likely suffer imminent, irreparable injury” if placed on unpaid leave, he stated.
“The Court’s analysis must be guided by the law, not by its sympathy,” Pittman said, while responding to the employees’ concerns about a potential loss of income for refusing to comply. “Despite the novel facts presented here, the case law is clear that hardships stemming from loss of income are remediable; axiomatically such hardships cannot be called irreparable.”
The employees seeking the preliminary injunction against United’s vaccine policy ― identified in their complaint as an aircraft captain, flight attendant, aircraft technician and mechanic, station operation representative, and a customer support representative ― had accused the company of failing to provide reasonable religious accommodations, of retaliating against them for requesting vaccine exemptions, and of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide reasonable medical accommodations for qualified employees.
United announced that it would offer employees with religious exemptions or medical vaccine exemptions new positions which will allow them to not be in close contact directly with customers. These new roles will be offered until it’s safe for employees not vaccinated to resume their old positions. Unvaccinated employees who refuse to accept these roles will be put on unpaid parental leave.
“We’re pleased with the court’s decision today,” a United spokesperson told HuffPost in a statement Tuesday. “We know that the best way to keep everyone as safe as we can is for everyone to get vaccinated, as nearly all United employees have chosen to do.”
Scott Kirby is United’s CEO. His efforts to make sure that employees are vaccinated have resulted in just over 91% of employees receiving the vaccine, Kirby said last month.