In response to our clients' request for a Temporary Restraining Order, United Airlines agreed in a Texas courtroom Friday to halt its plan to effectively terminate some 2,000 of its employees who decline to get the COVID-19 vaccine for religious or medical reasons, in a victory for employees seeking reasonable accommodations for personal medical decisions.
United Airlines had announced that any employees who had not been vaccinated by September 27 would lose their job on October 2. Those who simply refused the vaccine would be terminated outright. But those who filed for a religious or medical accommodation were offered a so-called “accommodation” of indefinite unpaid leave, under which they would forfeit both their pay and their benefits—including medical coverage. In other words, the “accommodation” was termination by another name.
Judge Mark Pittman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas postponed ruling on plaintiffs' request for an injunction against United when the company pledged not to enforce its vaccine mandate against those 2,000 workers until after the parties submit their evidence and additional arguments to him next month, keeping all those United employees on the job for now with full pay and benefits.
Mark Paoletta, a partner at Schaerr Jaffe LLP, representing the employees, stated:
We are pleased that under a threat of a Temporary Restraining Order, United Airlines postponed its heartless and unlawful vaccine mandate that would impose on approximately 2,000 employees the unconscionable choice of violating their religious faith, violating their doctors' orders, or essentially losing their job.
United's hostility to their own employees exercising their civil rights is stunning. United's CEO Scott Kirby previously disparaged those who might seek a religious accommodation and warned that those employees were putting their jobs on the line. Fortunately, for those seeking an accommodation, United's mandate has for now been stopped dead in its tracks.
Now everyone can follow the court's decision to take the time and care needed to carefully consider the legitimate claims our clients have as we seek a solution that allows United to take necessary steps to combat COVID-19 while respecting the civil rights of valuable employees who have sincere religious objections or medical conditions that make them unable to take the vaccine.
Judge Pittman will hear the evidence and arguments on October 8 in the federal courthouse in Ft. Worth, Texas.
The case is Sambrano v. United Airlines, No. 4:21-cv-01074 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
Schaerr Jaffe attorneys Mark Paoletta, Gene Schaerr, Brian Field, Ken Klukowski, Josh Prince, and Annika Boone are working on this matter.
Employees of United Airlines with questions about religious or medical accommodation requests may find additional information at https://ae4hf.org.