Southwest Airlines has dropped the plan to put unvaccinated employees who have applied for a religious or medical exemption on unpaid leave as of a federal deadline in December. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are among the carriers that are federal contractors and subject to a Biden administration requirement that their employees are vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec.
The company said they are exempt for medical or religious reasons. Rules for federal contractors are stricter than those expected from the Biden administration for large companies, which will allow for regular Covid testing as an alternative to vaccination.
Executives at both carriers in recent days have tried to reassure employees about job security under the mandate, urging them to apply for exemptions if they can’t get vaccinated for a medical reason or a sincerely held religious belief.Southwest Airlines are expected to face more questions about the mandate when they report quarterly results Thursday morning. Pilots’ labor unions have sought to block the mandates or sought alternatives such as regular testing.
Southwest’s senior vice presidents of operations and hospitality, Steve Goldberg, and Julie Weber said that if employees’ requests for an exemption haven’t been approved by Dec. 8, they could continue to work while the following mask and distancing guidelines until the request has been reviewed.