United Airlines is firing 232 employees who have refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The move was made by the major American carrier after U.S District Judge Mark Pittman granted a restraining order against United Airlines, restricting them from placing approximately 2,000 staff members on unpaid leave.
On October 14, 2021, Scott Kirby, chief executive officer of United Airlines, confirmed to media that the carrier will terminate contracts with 232 employees who are yet to be vaccinated, failing to comply with the airline’s mandatory policy.
The news of these staff terminations arrives two weeks after United’s decision to put 2,000 unvaccinated workers, who are seeking medical or religious exemptions, on unpaid leave.
Kirby claimed that since the beginning of August 2021, when United Airlines became the first American carrier to mandate a vaccine against COVID-19, approximately 99.7% of a total of 67,000 airline employees have already received the vaccination.
Kirby continued: “You know, I wish we would have gotten to 100 percent but, out of our 67,000 US employees, there are 232 who have not been vaccinated and they are going through the termination process.”
In September 2021, the carrier claimed that it would place unvaccinated staff on unpaid leave until the company updates its current testing regimens, temporary job reassignment policy, and masking protocols. The decision caused discontent across unvaccinated workers. Six employees filed federal lawsuits against United Airlines while arguing that the temporary unpaid leave was ‘unreasonable accommodation’.
On October 12, 2021, the Judge sided with employees and blocked the airline from implementing its decision regarding unpaid leave. The staff members behind the legal actions were awarded more time to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit. However, the restraining order is set to expire on October 26, 2021, leaving thousands of United Airlines employees at risk of being placed on indefinite unpaid leave or facing dismissal if they do not comply with vaccine mandates despite citing medical and religious exemption.