Judge Extends Order Blocking United Airlines From Putting Unvaccinated Workers Seeking Mandate Exceptions on Leave


A federal judge this week extended an order that’s blocking United Airlines from putting workers who are seeking exceptions to the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on leave.

U. S. District Judge Mark Pittman, a Trump nominee, extended the temporary restraining order until Nov. 8.

Before his extension, it was to expire on Oct. 26.

If the order expired without an injunction in place, “nothing would prevent hundreds of workers from ostensibly either: (1) being compelled to take a vaccination in violation of their religious beliefs or medical restrictions, or (2) being placed on indefinite unpaid leave,” Pittman wrote in a 3-page document on Monday explaining the rationale.

United and six employees are locked in a legal battle over the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Workers sued in September over United’s plans to put on leave any employees who requested religious or medical exemptions.

The order only blocks action against workers who filed for exceptions on or before Sept. 23. Workers who refused to get vaccinated and did not apply for an exception have already been fired.

In a court filing just before the order, United said that it would, if allowed to proceed with the plans, welcome back any employees placed on temporary unpaid leave once the COVID-19 pandemic “meaningfully recedes.”

After consulting with outside experts, the company said that would be measured as community transmission rates of the virus that causes COVID-19 reaching a “moderate” level for at least 21 days in the state where each employee works. The standard for flight crew members will be based on nationwide daily COVID-19 case counts being no more than 10,000 new cases per day for at least three weeks.

“By linking return to work for accommodated employees to community transmission rates and case counts, these standards are designed to account for the unpredictable and highly variable nature of the pandemic. As conditions continue to change, United will continue to reassess these metrics and update its employees accordingly,” United lawyers argued.

Plaintiffs weren’t convinced, telling the judge in a response that he should ignore United’s advice.

“As plaintiffs have shown, and United has not refuted, even relatively brief periods of unpaid leave—when not requested by the em... (Read more)

Submitted 42 days ago

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