United Airlines employees sue to block vaccine mandate

Six United Airlines employees filed a federal lawsuit against the company this week seeking to block a COVID-19 vaccine mandate from going into effect. 

The complaint, filed Tuesday in a Texas federal court, alleges that the company discriminated against employees who requested religious or medical accommodations.

The plaintiffs have asked for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction on enforcing the order, followed by a permanent injunction.

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United Airlines became the first U.S. airline to require all employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in early August.

At the time, the company said it would require employees to be vaccinated five weeks after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants a coronavirus vaccine full approval or by Oct. 25, whichever came first.

The FDA approved Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Aug. 23, and employees now have until Monday to either get vaccinated or apply for an exemption. 

Earlier this month, United CEO Scott Kirby said in an interview with CNN’s “New Day” that employees who receive medical or religious exemptions would either be reassigned to not interact with customers or go on an unpaid temporary leave.

But the lawsuit alleges that United required its employees to submit requests for accommodations by Aug. 31.   

The suit further alleges that some applicants for medical exemptions were asked to provide additional information, while others were not. Similarly, some applying for religious accommodations had to submit a letter from their pastor, while others did not.

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The complaint further alleges that the company’s online system for accommodations didn’t alert employees when additional information was requested, causing them to miss deadlines for providing the information.

The plaintiffs allege that they represent a class that is expected to exceed 2,000 employees.

The Hill has reached out to United for comment. 

The lawsuit is the latest as employees seek to block vaccine mandates. 

United Airlines said earlier this week that 97 percent of its workforce had been fully vaccinated, and that employees who refuse to get vaccinated or not receive and exemption will start to be fired next Tuesday.