Breaking Tuesday, Southwest Airlines announced it has dropped their plans to force unvaccinated workers to go on unpaid leave. “Instead, employees whose accommodations weren’t reviewed or approved by Dec. 8 will have to keep working” reports FOX Business.
According to an internal note sent to Southwest employees and obtained by FOX Business, “the employee will continue to work, while following all COVID mask and distancing guidelines applicable to their position, until the accommodation has been processed.”
Previously, although employees were technically allowed to apply for medical or religious exemptions, Southwest demanded employees get fully vaccinated by a December 8 deadline. Southwest says it was simply complying with President Biden’s mandate requiring companies of 100 or more employees, and those with federal contracts, to have fully vaccinated staff.
Southwest, based in Dallas, has 54,000 employees. Earlier this month, CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement, “I encourage all Southwest Employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”
As previously reported, Southwest announced the mandate would take place on Monday October 4, and the very next day, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) sought a temporary restraining order against the mandate. By Friday of that week SWAPA filed a lawsuit stating “the new vaccine mandate unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021.”
Southwest experienced tremendous flight interruptions including the cancellation of over 2,500 flights that weekend. Rumors swirled that the chaos was a direct result of the vaccination mandate.
In the chaotic aftermath, on October 13, a Texas federal judge ordered United Airlines not to put unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave. The judge favored employees who are suing over the vaccine mandate.