United Airlines announced Tuesday that 593 of its employees face termination for failing to comply with its Covid-19 immunization policy, which is one of the most stringent inoculation regulations issued by a U.S. firm.
The immunization requirement was met by more than 96 percent of United’s 67,000-person workforce in the United States. The deadline for uploading proof of immunization, or the first shot in the case of a two-dose vaccine, was late Monday.
For religious or medical reasons, over 2,000 United employees sought exemptions from the policy, which the airline revealed this summer. The Chicago-based airline has stated that employees who are granted such exemptions will be placed on unpaid leave for a period of time.
“And we know that decision was difficult for some. But there is no doubt in our minds that some of you will have averted a future hospital visit — or possibly death — because you got vaccinated,” United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart told staff in a memo Tuesday.
Employees who are not vaccinated and do not have exemptions face firing, which could take weeks. “This was an extremely difficult decision, but keeping our team safe has always been our top priority,” stated United’s Kirby and Hart.
Staff who failed to upload proof of vaccination included pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics, according to a spokeswoman who declined to provide any details.
A United spokeswoman, however, stated that the business is ready to cooperate with some unvaccinated employees during the termination process if they change their minds about becoming immunized.
The carrier does not anticipate operational issues as a result of terminations, according to the spokesman.
According to the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents the airline’s roughly 23,000 cabin crew members, the number of flight attendants who had not sent in their vaccination cards and had not received an exemption fell by about half from the weekend to Monday and fell further to fewer than 100 on Tuesday.
Employees who are fired for failing to be vaccinated will be fired for breaking a business safety policy, which may make them ineligible for unemployment benefits.