Southwest Airlines has scrapped its plan to put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave while their exemption requests are under review, CNBC reported Tuesday.
Unvaccinated employees who have applied for, but haven’t yet received a religious or medical exemption, will reportedly be able to keep their jobs—for now. The federal deadline for the Biden regime’s vaccine mandate is December 8. If their requests for exemptions are not approved by that date, airline officials say they can continue to work “while following mask and distancing guidelines until the request has been reviewed.”
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are among the carriers that are federal contractors and subject to a Biden administration requirement that their employees are vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 8 unless they are exempt for medical or religious reasons. Rules for federal contractors are stricter than those expected for large companies, which will allow for regular Covid testing as an alterative to a vaccination.
Executives at both carriers in recent days have tried to reassure employees about job security under the mandate, urging them to apply for exemptions if they can’t get vaccinated for medical or for a sincerely held religious belief. The airlines are expected to face more questions about the mandate when they report quarterly results Thursday morning. Pilots labor unions have sought to block the mandates or sought alternatives like regular testing.
Southwest’s senior vice president of operations and hospitality, Steve Goldberg, and Julie Weber, vice president and chief people officer, wrote to staff on Friday that if employees’ requests for an exemption haven’t been approved by Dec. 8, they could continue to work “while following mask and distancing guidelines until the request has been reviewed.”
Both executives told staff that if employees had exemption requests declined, they could reapply if there was “new information or circumstances it would like the Company to consider.” Southwest requires all new hires to be vaccinated.
Hundreds of Southwest employees protested the vaccine mandate outside the airline’s Dallas headquarters on Monday.
Southwest employee Denny Vigiano stressed that the rally was not an “anti-vaccine protest.”
“We are here to encourage Southwest top fight for employees’ medical freedoms, and the right to choose without losing your jobs,” she said. “And hopefully, we’ll inspire other Americans to stand up and fight for their freedoms.”
“Southwest acknowledges various viewpoints regarding the Covid-19 vaccine,” an airline spokesperson told CNBC. “We have always supported, and will continue to support, our employees’ right to express themselves, with open lines of communication to share issues and concerns.”