Southwest Airlines has ditched a plan to put employees who are unvaccinated for COVID-19 — that have applied for but haven’t received a religious or medical exemption — on unpaid leave starting by a federal deadline in December.
CNBC reports that Southwest Airlines is 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.
“The employee will continue to work, while following all COVID mask and distancing guidelines applicable to their position, until the accommodation has been processed,” according to an internal note sent to employees and obtained by FOX Business.
Rules for federal contractors are stricter than those expected for large companies, which will allow for regular Covid testing as an alternative to vaccination, CNBC reports.
“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,” CNBC’s Leslie Josephs writes. “The airlines are expected to face more questions about the mandate when they report quarterly results Thursday morning.”
According to the White House website, more than half of United Airlines’ unvaccinated employees went out and got vaccinated with weeks left to go before the deadline.
“The President’s plan will reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans by using regulatory powers and other actions to substantially increase the number of Americans covered by vaccination requirements—these requirements will become dominant in the workplace,” the website reads.
Just days ago, Delta Air Lines announced it would hold off on enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees as the White House is pressing major U.S. airlines to mandate the vaccine for employees by Dec. 8.