United Airlines is preparing to fire almost 600 employees who failed to comply with the company’s COVID-19 vaccination policy by the Sept. 27 deadline, company executives told employees Tuesday.
United was one of the first major US companies to announced a vaccine mandate for its 67,000 US employees, the overwhelming majority of whom have complied.
The 593 employees who didn’t get the shots and are in violation of the mandate can still save their jobs by getting vaccinated before their official termination meetings, the Chicago-based airline said.
“And we know for some, that decision was a reluctant one. But there’s no doubt in our minds that some of you will have avoided a future hospital stay — or even death — because you got vaccinated,” United’s CEO, Scott Kirby, and the company’s president, Brett Hart, told employees in a note Tuesday.
Roughly 2,000 United employees were exempted from the mandate for religious or medical reasons, company execs said.
The airline previously said staff who sought such exemptions would be placed on temporary unpaid leave starting next month, prompting six employees to sue, alleging discrimination. A hearing is set for Oct. 8.
United did not provide a breakdown of the kinds of employees who haven’t yet been vaccinated, but nearly 400 workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had not uploaded proof of vaccination by Tuesday, District 141 President Mike Klemm told CNBC.
The union represents more than 25,000 United employees.
Klemm said the union plans to file wrongful termination grievances if the workers who refused to be vaccinated are fired, according to the outlet.
While all of the nation’s major airlines have encouraged employees to get vaccinated, United is one of the few to mandate it.
Delta previously announced plans to impose a $200 monthly surcharge on unvaccinated employees’ company health-care costs starting in November.
Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, along with Delta, have said unvaccinated employees will have to tap their own sick time if they get infected with COVID-19 and miss work.
President Joe Biden announced earlier this month that his administration will mandate that companies with over 100 employees require their employees get vaccinated or have them test regularly for the virus.
Company executives, though, have said the announcement was light on specifics and are awaiting details so they can implement a plan.