United Airlines is set to allow workers who declined to get a COVID-19 vaccine to return to work, according to an internal memorandum.
The missive, which was leaked to The Epoch Times, purports to show that unvaccinated employees can come back to work as soon as March 28, which was sent to workers Thursday morning.
In the memo, United’s human resources VP Kirk Limacher said the change was due to the decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from the disease across the country in recent weeks. The memo also cites the lifting of restrictions in numerous states and cities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's revision of its masking guidelines.
“These changes suggest that the pandemic is beginning to meaningfully recede. As a result, we’re confident we can safely begin the process of returning our RAP employees to their jobs,” Limacher reportedly wrote.
United was the first commercial airline to impose a vaccine mandate on its employees, affecting all 67,000 of the company’s workers since fall 2021. Workers hesitant or refusing to take the vaccine could apply for religious or medical exemptions, which, if granted, forced them to stop working with no pay or benefits. The company described these conditions as “unpaid leave.”
The company later allowed some employees to switch jobs instead of going on “unpaid leave.”
As The Epoch Times reported, United CEO Scott Kirby warned employees “to be very careful about” requesting special accommodations, which he said could put their jobs at risk.
The policy triggered a lawsuit against the company by employees who felt discriminated against for their choice. In February, a federal court ruled that the United mandate was “actively coercing employees to abandon their convictions.”
United ultimately fired 200 employees for refusing to get the vaccine. It is unclear if any of those employees will be given their jobs back with the company’s upcoming policy reversal.
According to The Epoch Times, employees with an approved exemption request will receive an email with instructions on how to return to “active status,” but warned that the company could once again revise its policies “if another variant emerges or the COVID trends suddenly reverse course.”
Limacher suggested that the company “will reevaluate the appropriate safety protocols” in the event that circumstances change.
United continues to maintain that its vaccination mandate was successful in treating the spread of COVID-19 and preventing severe cases of the disease.
“Our vaccinated employees have been significantly less likely to lose their lives to COVID,” said the VP, adding that vaccines continue to provide “high protection.”