Southwest Airlines scraps plans to put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave

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Southwest still plans to grant ‘valid’ requests

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Southwest Airlines is dropping a plan to put unpaid workers waiting to be approved for medical or religious exemptions on unpaid leave starting in December.

Instead, employees whose accommodations were not reviewed or approved by December 8 will have to keep working.

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According to an internal note sent to employees and obtained by Granthshala Business, “Employees will continue to work until the accommodation is processed, while adhering to the guidelines applicable to all COVID masks and their condition.”

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Earlier this month, Southwest became the latest airline to require its employees to be vaccinated by December 8, though it still gave employees the option to apply for a medical or religious exemption.

Southwest pilots’ union asks court to delay vaccine order

The Dallas-based carrier said it has begun mandating vaccines for its 54,000 employees to comply with new rules from the Biden administration, which requires federally contracting companies to fully vaccinate employees.

CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement earlier this month, “I encourage all Southwest employees to complete the federal directive as soon as possible, because we value every individual and create jobs for all.” Want to ensure safety.”

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The carrier said it still intends to grant “legitimate” requests for medical or religious exemptions.

However, in case that request is not granted, Southwest told employees it would “provide sufficient time for an employee to continue working and to be fully vaccinated while following safety protocols.”

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue also require employees to be vaccinated. United Airlines became the first major airline to do so in August. Since then, the airline said more than 97% of its employees have been vaccinated. United also said it would put employees who couldn’t get shots for medical or religious reasons, on unpaid leave, until rates of COVID-19 subside.

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