Southwest Airlines has canceled their plans to place unvaccinated staff of unpaid leave by an upcoming December 8 deadline following demonstrations and protests from their employees.
An internal note authored by the airline’s Senior VP of Operations & Hospitality Steve Goldberg as well as Chief People Officer and CP Julie Weber explained that employees will be allowed to continue work while following distancing and mask guidelines.
Last week, the airline service was forced to cancel several hundred flights due to an employee strike, though at the time the company tried to blame bad weather for the cancelations. Shortly thereafter, Southwest Airline employees were filmed protesting the company’s vaccine mandates outside of the airlines headquarters in Texas.
WATCH: Many #Southwest Airlines employees gather in front of the company’s headquarters in Dallas to protest the company’s vaccine mandate.
— Election Wizard (@ElectionWiz) October 18, 2021
According to a memo that the company issued to employees, they have changed the policy and will no longer place unvaccinated staff on indeterminate unpaid leave.
The company is still formally requiring that employees receive a vaccine by November 24 or supply the company with an approved religious exemption. While those exemptions are being handled, employees will continue to receive pay and those who reject the vaccine without religious exemption will be asked to “coordinate” with the company in seeking a “valid accommodation.”
An airline spokeswoman said that the company “acknowledges various viewpoints [about] the Covid-19 vaccine,” and said that Southwest supports their employees’ right to free expression and open communication about their concerns.
Southwest Airlines, being a federal contractor, is subject to the federal deadline imposed by the Biden administration to have all of their staff vaccinated by prescribed deadlines. Company leadership, however, encouraged employees to seek out exemptions if they had sincerely held religious beliefs or other medical reasons to avoid the vaccine.
Weber and Goldberg instructed Southwest employees to reapply for those exemptions if they have updated circumstances or information for the company to consider.
Author: Charles Robbins