Friday, October 15, 2021

REPORT: Federal Judge Blocks United Airlines From Imposing Employee Vaccine Mandate

Source: Breitbart

Published: October 12, 2021

By: Katherine Hamilton

A federal judge in Texas issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against United Airlines on Wednesday, blocking the airline from imposing a vaccine mandate against any of its employees in a nationwide class-action lawsuit.

According to the judicial order, which could be the first of its kind in the country against a coronavirus vaccine mandate, United Airlines is prohibited from placing employees with religious and medical exemptions on unpaid leave until October 26 while litigation continues. The judge also prohibited the airline from denying any employee requests for religious or medical exemptions. Previously, the airline did not allow employees to apply for an exemption after August 31.

Earlier in the case, the airline agreed of its own accord to postpone its vaccine mandate until October 15 for employees with exemptions during litigation. The day before the October 8 hearing, however, United filed a partial motion to dismiss, alleging the court lacked jurisdiction over the claims in the lawsuit. In order to allow the court reasonable time to respond to the jurisdictional challenge and to rule in the evidentiary hearing for a preliminary injunction, which was reset for Wednesday, the judge issued the TRO.

United Airlines originally told its 67,000 U.S. employees they must be vaccinated against Chinese coronavirus (or secure an exemption) by September 27 or face termination. As the airline’s vaccine mandate stands, any employees with exemptions would still be considered employed but would be placed on unpaid leave and would lose their benefits for up to six years or until the airline deems pandemic conditions safe for unvaccinated employees to return, according to the complaint.

“It is unconscionable to force any person to undergo a medical treatment that they object to as a matter of faith,” said Ken Blackwell, formerly the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and currently with the American Constitutional Rights Union. “When so many other nations recognize that there is no medical reason for people with natural immunity to take a vaccine, it is essential that America lead the way to protect our citizens’ rights on that front also.”

The class action lawsuit, which powerhouse Washington, D.C. law firm Schaerr Jaffe filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in September, represents up to 2,000 United Airlines employees.

“The Court now concludes it is necessary to issue this Temporary Restraining Order to avoid risking irreparable injury and to maintain the status quo in this case pending the Court’s hearing and resolution of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction,” Pittman wrote, noting that his order is not a ruling on the actual legality of the vaccine mandate.

United Airlines Imposes Temporary N95 Mask Policy for Unvaccinated Employees

The surprising judicial order comes at the end of several tumultuous weeks for the company. 

United Airlines instituted a potentially dangerous respirator mask mandate for unvaccinated employees just days after several employees filed the lawsuit alleging discrimination by the company concerning reasonable accommodations for religious and medical exemptions. 

According to an internal memo obtained by Breitbart News, the airline has temporarily mandated that unvaccinated employees wear N-95 or KN95 respirator masks at all times, effective October 2, as it waits for “the outcome of the litigation” regarding its reasonable accommodation process. The company agreed to supply employees with the respirators if they could not obtain their own. 

The memo continues in part: 

…You must wear your mask at all times in all United locations, including outdoors and on aircraft (this includes for personal or business travel). You may remove your mask only when you are actively eating or drinking and you must put your mask back on in between bites and sips. To the extent possible, please only eat or drink outdoors or in rooms alone or when socially distanced from others. Failure to comply with this mask requirement is subject to disciplinary action as outlined in the mask policy in the Working Together Guidelines. 

The policy includes strict guidance such as putting the respirator back on “in between bites and sips” — a step which arguably could lead to improperly trained employees repeatedly touching their masks, an action health experts advise against. Unvaccinated employees have also reportedly been isolated and bullied since the policy went into effect, sources told Breitbart News. Anyone who breaks the respirator policy could allegedly face termination.

“It’s been tense. You have the vaccinated — especially the junior vaccinated people happy about senior unvaccinated people, meaning their seniority is going to go up,” a United employee with knowledge of the situation told Breitbart News.

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