8 DFW-based airline workers sue United over vaccine warrants
Eight United Airlines employees based at DFW International Airport are suing the carrier over its most aggressive vaccination warrant program in the airline industry.
Employees filed a lawsuit in North Texas federal court on Wednesday, saying the Chicago-based airline was disregarding their personal religious beliefs as CEO Scott Kirby said few personal or religious exemptions would be granted.
A week ago, United told employees those claiming religious exemptions would be placed on unpaid medical leave.
The lawsuit said employees’ requests for religious exemptions were met with “a drastic threat of years of unpaid leave” and amounted to adverse employment action designed to force them “to give up their beliefs. religious and to receive the COVID-19 vaccine “.
“United’s actions have left [the employees] with the impossible choice to take the COVID-19 vaccine, to the detriment of their religious beliefs and their health, or to lose their livelihood, ”the lawsuit said.
The employees are represented by the Dallas law firm Stewart, Weigand and Owens.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal maneuvers across the country as businesses and government entities step up pressure on the public to obtain vaccines against the COVID-19 virus, with the delta variant still raging across the country. country.
It also comes shortly after a White House mandate that all companies with more than 100 employees must require their employees to be vaccinated.
United are reviewing the lawsuit, “but at this point we believe it is without merit,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
“The most effective thing we can do as an airline to protect the health and safety of all of our employees is to require the vaccine – excluding the small number of people who have requested an exemption, over 97% of our US employees are vaccinated, ”the US spokesperson said in a statement. “And we’ve been encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response from employees across all task forces since we announced the policy last month. “
United’s mandate extends to all 67,000 of its American workers.
The airline industry has been particularly challenged by the virus. U.S. airlines lost $ 35 billion last year due to the economic downturn, even after receiving billions in aid and loans from the federal government.
Passenger traffic is still down 20% from the pre-COVID-19 period, and airlines have reported another slowdown in ticket sales with the latest wave of the virus. And mask warrants, demanded first by airlines and then by the federal government to fly, resulted in unruly and sometimes violent interactions with passengers.
Airlines have all taken a pro-vaccine stance but have hesitated how far they want to go. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and Fort Worth-based American Airlines do not yet require vaccines for employees, but have given extra pay or extra vacation days to people who have been vaccinated. These airlines also require unvaccinated workers who become ill or are exposed to the virus to use their own vacation and sick leave.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is forcing its employees to get vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 tests to stay on the job.
Most airlines also require new employees to be vaccinated as well.
The lawsuit claims employees – including pilots, flight attendants, maintenance workers and customer service employees – cite religious and medical reasons for not getting the shot. Several said their requests for exemptions had already been denied.
Several employees told the airline that they could not be inoculated because tissue cultured from aborted fetal stem cell lines had been used to develop and test all vaccines approved by federal medical authorities. Medical and religious authorities, however, have argued that hundreds of modern drugs and vaccines, including chickenpox and Tylenol vaccines, have also used the ancient lines of aborted stem cells, which have been harvested over the years. 1980 and cultivated in the laboratory for the past four decades.
Kirby, former president of American Airlines and owner of a home in North Texas, said the CBS ‘ Confront the nation Sunday that the airline would be ready if the federal government also required all passengers to be vaccinated.