As the US plans to open its borders and allow travel from foreign nations, United Airlines has implemented a mandatory employee vaccination policy.
United Airlines is requiring all of its 67,000 US employees to be double vaccinated against COVID-19. But implementing the vaccine mandates has not been without its issues.
The final date by which employees needed to be vaccinated was pushed back after six employees filed a lawsuit against the airline and claimed that the airline had failed to provide reasonable accommodations for employees seeking religious and medical exemptions.
Previously UNLEASH has spoken to Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law Dorit Reiss who explains that: “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that you can’t discriminate based on religion in the workplace.” This means that if an employee has a real religious or medical objection to the vaccine, the employer has to accommodate them.
Despite initial pushback from United Airlines’ employees, less than 3% of staff requested a medical or religious exemption. Those who were granted an exception were to be placed on temporary leave on October 2nd, while those who did not have their exemption would be given 5 weeks to get jabbed.
In total, 593 employees who did not get vaccinated or request accommodation were fired by the airline.
President of the US, Joe Biden, had directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop a rule that requires companies with over 100 employees to adopt vaccination mandates or weekly testing programs. As a result, if companies do not comply with vaccine rules, they could meet penalties of up to $14,000 per violation.
This order has been cited as a primary factor for United Airlines’ vaccine mandate.
According to the Chicago Tribune, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and president Brett Hart spoke about the vaccination push in a memo to employees: “This is a historic achievement for our airline and our employees as well as for the customers and communities we serve.
“Our rationale for requiring the vaccine for all United’s US-based employees was simple — to keep our people safe — and the truth is this: Everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated, and vaccine requirements work.”
As the US enforces policies that are designed to protect workers, plenty of firms are firing staff. A large North Carolina hospital network, Novant Health, has stated that it fired 175 workers because they have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
NBC reported that Dr. David H. Priest, chief for safety for Novant Health, explained: “By doing that, by not getting vaccinated, they [employees] voluntarily resign.”
The situation within Novant Health echoes a similar incident in a hospital in Texas – Houston Methodist. Houston Methodist suspended 178 members of its staff for failing to get double vaccinated.
As companies introduce vaccine mandates, questions have been raised about how they can monitor the medical status of staff without infringing on their privacy rights or legislation.
On top of that, there are concerns about staff using fraudulent vaccination cards.
For this reason, the likes of Proxy Health has focused on the privacy concerns of employees and introduced a barcode system for employees’ phones. By using the software, employees can confirm their vaccination status without employers having any access to their private medical records.
With technology emerging to help businesses monitor vaccinations and vaccine mandates becoming increasingly popular in the US, it appears that the era of vaccine-to-work has arrived.