United Airlines to Allow Unvaccinated Employees to Return to Jobs March 28

United Airlines planes are parked at their gates at O’Hare International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

United Airlines will allow unvaccinated employees to return to their jobs starting March 28.

The Chicago-based U.S. carrier said in a memo about 2,200 employees had received vaccine-related reasonable accommodations after it had become one of the first major U.S. employers to mandate employee vaccines.

“We plan to welcome back those employees who have been out on an approved (accommodation) to their normal positions starting” March 28, the memo said.

United Chief Executive Scott Kirby in December said that, of the company’s 67,000 employees, about 200 did not comply with United’s mandate and were fired. A United official said the airline has no plans to rehire those employees.

The memo noted the sharp decline in COVID-19 cases in the United States and that the CDC recently relaxed its mask guidelines.

“These changes suggest that the pandemic is beginning to meaningfully recede,” the memo said. “As a result, we’re confident we can safely begin the process of returning” employees with accommodations to their jobs.

The memo added, “Of course, if another variant emerges or the COVID trends suddenly reverse course, we will reevaluate he appropriate safety protocols at that time.

A U.S. appeals court last month ordered a new review of a lower court decision not to block United from enforcing its employee vaccine mandate.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to return the issue to a U.S. District judge who rejected a request for an injunction blocking the mandate while employees argue their case against it.

In a scathing dissent, Judge Jerry E. Smith said “for every conceivable reason that the (employees) could lose this appeal, they should.”

Kirby in December defended the employee mandate: “We did this for safety. We believe it saved lives.”

SOURCE: Reuters – Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis