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United Airlines Sidelines Unvaxxed America-Based Employees

In an unusual twist, Britain-based employees – vaxxed or not – are replacing them.

Out-of-control staffing shortages – caused mainly by a spike in cases of the omicron variant — are leaving hundreds of planes grounded in the United States. However, COVID is not the sole cause of United Airlines’ staff shortfalls. Reportedly, unvaxxed U.S.-based employees must stay home without pay, while London-based employees, vaxed or not, are permitted to work in their stead. Understandably, many United Airlines employees are upset about this, and six of them have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company.

The Mandate

Biden Administration To Require All Travelers Entering U.S. To Be Tested For Covid

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The coronavirus mandate written and enforced by United Airlines requires all employees to be fully vaccinated unless legally exempt. To avoid inadequate staffing, most other airlines have a testing option for those who do not get the jab. United Airlines did not provide that. So the unvaxxed go on unpaid leave, lose their benefits, and cannot take other work because of a non-compete clause.

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) confronted Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, with a line of questioning regarding the lack of a testing option for his employees. Kirby responded, “We believe [the mandate] saved lives. I think that my number one obligation is safety, particularly running an airline … ”

The Loophole

Approximately 2,000 United Airlines employees are required to stay home without pay, even though most are medically or religiously exempt from taking the vaccine. Kirby claims to have put the unjabbed employees on leave for safety reasons. If this is the case, why are London-based employees, some vaccinated and some not, able to do the work in place of the U.S.-based employees? Well, it seems there is a loophole. Workers based in London are not subject to the mandate imposed on U.S. employees. Therefore, their vaccination status is irrelevant, and they can work without violating the safety measures.

The Contradiction

Kirby has repeatedly stated that the reason for his treatment of unvaccinated employees is safety, safety, safety. However, it seems contradictory that he is filling the positions of unvaccinated employees with other potentially unvaccinated ones. There is also word that other coronavirus safety measures are being thrown to the wayside, such as contact tracing for known positive cases and reporting positive test results of employee family members. His focus appears not to be on safety but instead targeting those who refuse to get the jab.

The Lawsuit

New banner Covid Affairs 2Six employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against United Airlines, alleging that the company’s coronavirus mandate violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities.

In mid-December, a panel denied the employees’ request to stop the enforcement of the United Airlines mandate. The court, however, did grant a motion to speed up an appeal in the case. The initial hearing was held on Jan. 3, 2022.

It seems that in light of the severe staffing crisis United Airlines is facing, the CEO would make the necessary changes to allow unjabbed employees to return to work. But Kirby opted to forgo the needs of his employees and now faces a lawsuit because of it.

~ Read more from Kirsten Brooker.

Read More From Kirsten Brooker

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