United Airlines said it will fire nearly 600 employees for not complying with Covid vaccine mandate

Business Insider US
United Airlines planes are seen at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, United States on September 29, 2021. United Airlines is firing employees over its vaccine mandate.
  • United Airlines announced it would fire 593 employees who are defying its vaccine mandate.
  • The airline "will work with folks" if they want to get vaccinated during the termination process, however, said a spoke person.
  • Meanwhile, six United employees are suing the company for its vaccine policy.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

United Airlines said it would fire nearly 600 employees for failing to comply with its Covid-19 vaccination requirements, according to several news outlets.

On Wednesday, the airline confirmed that it had already started the process of terminating 593 US-based employees who declined to get their shots. United also said that 99% of its total 67,000 non-exempted employees are vaccinated, reported Insider's Taylor Rains.

"This was an incredibly difficult decision, but keeping our team safe has always been our first priority," Scott Kirby, United's CEO, and Brett Hart, the airline's president, said in a memo to staff on Tuesday, reported The New York Times.

A United spokesperson said the company would "work with folks" if they decide to get vaccinated during the termination process.

United became the first US airline carrier to implement a vaccine mandate on August 6, requiring its employees to get vaccinated within five weeks of the FDA approving the shots. The Pfizer vaccine was approved on August 23, and United then told employees they had until September 27 to receive at least one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

CEO Kirby said he was only aware of a "handful" of staff who resigned from the airline over the vaccination requirements.

United later announced that it would establish a policy allowing unvaccinated employees to request religious or medical exemptions. These workers would be placed on temporary, unpaid personal leave starting October 2.

But that policy was shifted back to October 15 after six employees sued the airline, saying its vaccine mandate discriminates against workers and that it denied their exemption requests, reported Reuters.

Overall, less than 3% of United's workforce has applied for the exemptions, the airline said, per Reuters.

The airline plans to hire about 25,000 people over the next few years and will require all new employees to be vaccinated, a company spokesperson told Reuters.

United Airlines did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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