Starting January 17, unvaccinated American Airlines employees – whether they have an approved vaccine exemption or not – will face new protocols.
- “Complete a weekly self-health declaration”
- “Practice social distancing when possible”
- “Wear a mask at all times, except when outside and social distancing can be maintained”
For unvaccinated employees working in offices it’s effectively a masking requirement. For unvaccinated employees who work in airports and on planes this amounts to completing a ‘well for work’ survey once a week. They currently have to mask under federal rules anyway (though pilots do not have to do so while in the cockpit, and that won’t change).
Notably absent from this is any requirement for weekly Covid-19 testing. A spokesperson for American Airlines confirms to me, “No testing requirement at this time.”
Federal contractors – which the airline has said that it considers itself – are supposed to have all workers fully vaccinated by January 18th. That requirement from the Biden administration faces several court challenges.
There’s currently an injunction against the mandate that’s been upheld in the 6th circuit and a case before the 11th circuit after a judge in Georgia blocked the mandate.
The federal contractor mandate generally seemed to be on stronger legal footing than several other vaccine mandates, including the OSHA employer mandate being challenged at the Supreme Court today. That one – which would also cover American Airlines – requires unvaccinated workers to test negative for Covid-19 each week before coming in to work.
At some level these guidelines pay lip service to there being a distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees while betting on the pandemic phase of Covid-19 being over in a matter of weeks as Omicron courses through the population.