A Texas federal judge has put a stop to the enforcement of United Airlines’ vaccine mandate. The said company has been putting their employees who requested religious exemptions to the vaccination on unpaid leave.
On Tuesday, a U.S. judge in Texas temporarily halted United Airlines from putting any worker on unpaid leave if they request religious exemptions from the airlines in connection to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Additionally, the judge also temporarily put a stop to the company denying late requests for any religious or medical exemptions.
Back in September, workers of United Airlines sued the company for its preemptive issuance of a vaccine mandate for its employees ahead of President Joe Biden’s formal issuance of a federal vaccine mandate.
According to a report by The Hill, six employees filed a federal lawsuit against the airlines as they hope to block United’s vaccine mandate from taking effect. The said complaint claimed that the airlines discriminated against workers who asked for religious or medical accommodations.
Can you fire someone for being unhealthy? For being a smoker? For having type 2 diabetes? For being overweight? For being old? For having a poor immune system? For being sick? All contribute to more serious cases of Corona virus. Is that next United Airlines?
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) October 13, 2021
The class-action lawsuit was led by United Airlines captain David Sambrano, who hails from North Texas. According to The Texan, the said suit was filed on Sept. 21, and it asks for an injunction against the airline company that would stop it from firing or placing on unpaid leave any worker who has a legitimate basis for seeking an exemption.
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In turn, United had also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has previously released an executive order that bans the enforcement of any vaccine mandate in the state. This includes those issued by private employers. However, it seems big airline companies have vowed to go against the said order.
Both American and Southwest airlines revealed that they would keep on implementing the vaccine mandate despite the Texas executive order, per Politico’s report on Tuesday.
In connection to the matter at hand, Southwest released a statement, saying that “Federal action supersedes any state mandate or law.” It added that it plans on complying with Biden’s executive order as the airline is a federal contractor.
However, Garry Kelly, Southwest’s CEO, went on an interview on ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” saying that workers would not be fired over the vaccine mandate, despite the previous company correspondence revealing the contrary.
The Southwest CEO’s timing of his announcement may have more to do about litigations recently filed against the company in Dallas than his convictions against the mandates.
According to a Bloomberg report, Southwest Airlines pilots have asked a court in Dallas, Texas, to temporarily block the said airline company from enforcing federally mandated COVID-19 vaccinations until an already existing lawsuit connected to U.S. labor law violations is resolved.
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The same report revealed that the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s filing also requested an immediate hearing about the request before a federal court in Dallas. The group claims that the airline has continued to pursue unilateral actions that go against the terms of the Railway Labor Act. One of those steps is the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Over the weekend, Southwest flights have started to be canceled, while almost 2,000 flights have been delayed. The airline company continues to deny that a “sick out” has been happening, which has caused operational problems. Instead, the company has blamed “poor planning” and “external operational challenges.”
However, these issues seemed to have been resolved on Tuesday morning, and Southwest’s cancelations and delays went down.
Gov. Abbott recently released an executive order stating that any vaccine mandate will not be enforced in the state. This comes as the Biden administration has yet to formally issue the federal vaccine regulation even over a month following its announcement. Because of this, Texas is pushing the Biden administration to issue the unlawful mandate so that it may get litigated in court.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed a fine on Leon County worth $3.75 million because of its imposed vaccine mandate despite the state’s ban on “vaccine passport.” On the other hand, in a court battle in New York, a judge has struck down the state’s enforcement of the vaccine mandate as it was deemed unconstitutional based on the grounds of equal protection and of the First Amendment.