United Airlines is terminating 232 employees for refusing to be vaccinated, according to CEO Scott Kirby, as a Texas judge temporarily stopped the airline from putting 2,000 employees on unpaid leave for religious or medical reasons.
Kirby, told CBS Mornings last Wednesday that the company had vaccinated 99.7% of its staff in the six weeks since issuing a vaccine mandate on August 6.
United was the first airline to mandate that all personnel get immunised.
‘You know, I wish we could have gotten to 100%, but out of our 67,000 US employees, there are 232 who have not been vaccinated and are in the process of being terminated,’ he said.
It came after U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman of Northern Texas gave United a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, prohibiting the business from putting employees on unpaid leave to seek medical and religious exemptions from the rule.
Six employees sued United in federal court, citing unpaid leave as an unfair accommodation.
The restraining order is set to expire on October 26, putting over 2,000 United employees at risk of losing their jobs.
In a business memo, those with religious exemptions were informed that they would be placed on unpaid leave while the airline implemented additional safety mitigating measures, such as ‘new testing regimens, temporary job reassignments, and masking techniques.’
Last month, lawyers for the employees and the airline agreed that United would not place the employees on unpaid leave, but the court ruled that the agreement would expire before he could rule on the merits of the case.
This would put “hundreds of workers” at risk of being placed on indefinite unpaid leave or being forced to receive a vaccination that violates their religious beliefs or medical constraints.
Kirby defended the Chicago-based company’s vaccine mandate on Wednesday, despite Texas Governor Abbott’s ban on any mandates.
And he stated that the directive has had no effect on United’s workers, especially at their Houston hub.
‘I think we’ve demonstrated at United that’s not the case.’ If you put a vaccination mandate out there and explain why you’re doing it, and if you’re open, honest, and transparent with your employees about why you’re doing it, even if some of them disagree – and a lot of them did disagree,’ Kirby told CBS Mornings.
‘You know, I believe the fact that we could get to 99.7 per cent in less than eight weeks indicates you can make a vaccine mandate work as long as you’re open, honest, and transparent about why you’re doing it.’
Several airlines have followed in the footsteps of United, including Texas-based American and Southwest Airlines, who have both stated that they will disregard Governor Abbott’s mandate restriction.
According to Abbott’s order, American and Southwest might face a $1,000 fee for requiring employees to obtain a vaccine because employees could lose their jobs.
According to the Washington Post, the directive is intended to safeguard employees from “losing their livelihoods” by preventing them from being forced to be vaccinated or lose their employment.
Delta Airlines, based in Georgia, has not mandated vaccines for employees, but it has imposed a $200 monthly premium on unvaccinated members and requires them to be tested weekly.
Delta has declared that 90% of its employees are vaccinated.
By Joe Cusmano