Judge Extends Order Blocking United Airlines From Putting Unvaccinated Workers Seeking Mandate Exceptions on Leave

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A national justice this week extended an bid that’s blocking United Airlines from putting workers who are seeking exceptions to the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate connected leave.

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman, a Trump nominee, extended the temporary restraining order until Nov. 8.

Before his extension, it was to expire connected Oct. 26.

If the bid expired without an injunction successful place, “nothing would forestall hundreds of workers from ostensibly either: (1) being compelled to instrumentality a vaccination successful usurpation of their spiritual beliefs oregon aesculapian restrictions, oregon (2) being placed connected indefinite unpaid leave,” Pittman wrote successful a 3-page papers connected Monday explaining the rationale.

United and six employees are locked successful a ineligible conflict implicit the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Workers sued successful September implicit United’s plans to enactment connected permission immoderate employees who requested spiritual oregon aesculapian exemptions.

The bid lone blocks enactment against workers who filed for exceptions connected oregon earlier Sept. 23. Workers who refused to get vaccinated and did not use for an objection have already been fired.

In a tribunal filing conscionable earlier the order, United said that it would, if allowed to proceed with the plans, invited backmost immoderate employees placed connected impermanent unpaid permission erstwhile the COVID-19 pandemic “meaningfully recedes.”

After consulting with extracurricular experts, the institution said that would beryllium measured arsenic assemblage transmission rates of the microorganism that causes COVID-19 reaching a “moderate” level for astatine slightest 21 days successful the authorities wherever each worker works. The modular for formation unit members volition beryllium based connected nationwide regular COVID-19 lawsuit counts being nary much than 10,000 caller cases per time for astatine slightest 3 weeks.

“By linking instrumentality to enactment for accommodated employees to assemblage transmission rates and lawsuit counts, these standards are designed to relationship for the unpredictable and highly adaptable quality of the pandemic. As conditions proceed to change, United volition proceed to reassess these metrics and update its employees accordingly,” United lawyers argued.

Plaintiffs weren’t convinced, telling the justice successful a effect that helium should disregard United’s advice.

“As plaintiffs person shown, and United has not refuted, adjacent comparatively little periods of unpaid leave—when not requested by the worker arsenic an accommodation—is an adverse employment action. An adverse employment action, that keeps radical retired of work, is neither tenable nor an accommodation,” they said successful a abstracted filing.

Further, the modular offered is truthful “untenable” that “there volition ne'er beryllium a instrumentality to normalcy,” they added, citing a declaration from Stanford University prof Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.

Because nary vaccination complaint volition trim the caseload to the projected level, United is fundamentally saying the employees volition stay connected indefinite, unpaid leave, they asserted.

The parties are engaged successful mediation and are required to record a associated mediation study by Oct. 29 astatine 12 p.m.

Vaccinated Pilots Afraid of Flying With Unvaccinated Coworkers?

United has said it is paying astir $1.4 cardinal each 2 weeks to supply paid permission for the unvaccinated pilots who person filed for exceptions.

“United had nary prime but to spot unvaccinated pilots connected paid permission because—as the grounds astatine the proceeding showed—vaccinated pilots successful United’s workforce garbage to hazard their information flying with unvaccinated pilots,” United lawyers said successful a filing past week, referring to grounds from a aviator fixed astatine a caller hearing.

Distractions and dissension from making vaccinated pilots alert with unvaccinated colleagues would origin “an unacceptable information risk,” Kirk Limacher, a United quality resources vice president, said successful a abstracted filing.

Plaintiffs challenged the position, alleging that since COVID-19 vaccines became disposable successful precocious 2020, “it has ne'er been existent that immoderate important fig of vaccinated pilots person refused to alert with unvaccinated pilots, particularly those who person already had COVID and person earthy immunity, oregon those who person precocious tested negative.”

“Indeed, the assertion is easy rebutted by showing the instances of vaccinated and unvaccinated pilots flying unneurotic passim the past 9 months. Moreover, the assertion is rebutted by the information that, arsenic witnesses acknowledged astatine the hearing, immoderate acrophobic aviator whitethorn opt to deterioration a disguise successful the cockpit,” they added.

The full concern could beryllium resolved by not letting pilots cognize whether colleagues are vaccinated, according to the plaintiffs, who besides said that United should not beryllium sharing backstage aesculapian accusation and would instantly halt needing to walk wealth connected paid permission if it did so.

Zachary Stieber


Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including authorities and tribunal cases. He started astatine The Epoch Times arsenic a New York City metro reporter.