United Employees Sue Over Vaccine Mandate, As Airline Reveals Makes Semi-Public Who Is Unvaxxed

United Airlines has been the most aggressive U.S. carrier – and one of the most aggressive U.S. companies – requiring that all employees be vaccinated. They now boast a 97% vaccination rate.

The airline says employees can,

This policy was announced right before, and likely in concert with, the President announcing strict new vaccination requirements for companies with 100+ employees.

The airline’s tactics though have basically begged for lawsuits. Their ‘reasonable accommodation’ for those with medical exemptions is not to pay them or allow them to work until the end of the pandemic. And those seeking religious exemptions are instructed to provide a letter from a pastor attesting to the beliefs, which is something not legally required, but that you can buy online.

A lawsuit has now been filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. And by the way,

The airline started sending out postcards to unvaccinated employees earlier this month warning that anyone who didn’t get the shot or secure an exemption would be “separated” from the company.

“As these postcards were not sent in an envelope, United effectively broadcast its employees’ vaccination status to all who saw the postcards,” the lawsuit claims.

There’s little question that employers have the legal right to impose vaccine requirements, and this seems to be true even where working conditions are subject to collective bargaining. However what remains to be litigated is what sorts of accommodations are in fact required for religious or medical exemptions. The Biden administration’s proposed OSHA rule is expected to include regular testing as an alternative to vaccination.

United does not allow such an alternative. At 97% vaccination, United faces less operational risk than other airlines – who might see pilots take retirement if they object. Then again, for the final 3% maybe they’re the ones considering this…

A vaccine mandate for employees does little to help passengers, who are generally more exposed to other passengers than they are to employees – such as in security lines, at the gate, and in the middle seat on board. United CEO Scott Kirby has said the airline is prepared to implement a vaccine mandate for passengers if the federal government imposes one but is not prepared to do so on its own.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. They’ll lose.
    It’s established law for over 100 years. Your vaccination status is not a protected right.

  2. Of course United not impose a vaccine mandate for passengers without the government because they can’t as a common carrier. Unless vaccines are required for all Americans – highly unlikely to happen because the pandemic will end first – UA is a common carrier which means they have to accommodate all passengers.

    And the problem w/ UA’s vaccine mandate is that it is unprecedented for a company to put employees on unpaid leave even if they provide a legitimate exemption.

  3. Uhh, United may at least want to change its name if it keeps acting like this. It would be like if McDonalds actually called itself “Healthy Food”. Just sounds dumb and trying to cover up for something.

  4. “…those seeking religious exemptions are instructed to provide a letter from a pastor attesting to the beliefs…” Seems some religious discrimination going on here as many folk have rabbis, mullahs, shinshokus, high priests or priestesses, swamis, elders, guides, medicine men or medicine women and the like. And then we have the Baha’i faith which has no ministers, priests, imams, rabbis, or any other form of clergy.

  5. I better get more popcorn cause this is going to be fun to watch!

    I doubt the employees will win this suit as employers, from what I gather, have the legal right to require vaccinations. The suit will likely just drag United’s name through the mud, but I think the airline likes their name being soiled.

  6. The republican right used to be the solid big business supporter/ pro business rights. With all this business authoritarianism and tech censorship it seems like that support is drying up pretty quick and businesses will have to rely less on republican suppory and be relying on a democrat party whose most extreme 20% is literally communist. Will be interesting to see how american society moves forward.

  7. If they can be placed in non customer facing remote jobs, OK. But United has the right to protect itself from people getting sick and dying pointlessly. I hope they stick to their principles and demand the vaccination. Every non-remote employer should.

  8. Can’t wait for a full vaccine (not just one jab) mandate for all flyers. It’s inevitable, and the sooner we get there the earlier things go back to normal. We’ve wasted so much time already with the culture wars, and kill way too many Americans (2,050 every single day at the moment, a number that keeps increasing instead of going down!).

  9. Well on the bright side you have made away from the mask mandates. Ironically enough if you are concerned about the vaccination status of the pax sitting next to you on the plane as you mentioned on live and let’s fly a couple of weeks back you would be for the mask mandate on planes.
    Some major dissonance going on there.
    As to United. Good in them. The anti vaskers are overwhelming medical care facilities. They need to stop cringing about their freedumbs and just get vaxxed and mask up. These idiots will cause another variant to pop up, and we will be back to square one

  10. @Jake – “Can’t wait for a full vaccine (not just one jab) mandate for all flyers. It’s inevitable, ”

    No, it is most definitely NOT inevitable. I’m sure the Covid Nazis like Fauci want to do that, but I seriously doubt it ever actually happens.

  11. Part of what Tim Dunn wrote is: ” Unless vaccines are required for all Americans – highly unlikely to happen because the pandemic will end first – UA is a common carrier which means they have to accommodate all passengers.”

    I must be missing something. There is nothing in this article about United refusing passengers who have not been vaccinated, and masks are currently required by federal mandate. This article is about employees not being allowed to work, including in a flying capacity, who have not been vaccinated.

    Since I see a vast distinction between passengers and employees, perhaps Mr. Dunn will respond. Perhaps something was dropped from his original message.

  12. When the vaccines are actually sterilizing and stop spread/and infection…we can have this conversation. Otherwise, it’s pointless and unscientific to require any form of a vaccine mandate.

  13. Vijay: “businesses will have to rely less on republican suppory and be relying on a democrat party whose most extreme 20% is literally communist. Will be interesting to see how american society moves forward.”

    And you know this exactly how? See how stupid you sound when you leave the cover of the rock you usually hide under.

  14. For some reason I do not think anyone on the SCOTUS will ever go against this, they may tweek it but not one of them wants to put their name on the case that says any vacs are optional. Remember the small pox case? Who here has seen a mumps, measles, rubella, small pox, tuberculosis case in their life time….. Tell me if you are the one who wants to MURDER YOUR KID, GRANDCHILD buy changing it so people can opt out

  15. All I see here are people who refuse to be vaccinated because …..

    It’s like a anti vaxxers ( and anyone know doesn’t have a legit reason to not get vaccinated) are showing their ignorance because it’s democrats who are asking people to stay safe and be vaccinated.

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