Judge bars United from putting unvaccinated workers on leave

FORT WORTH, TEXAS (AP) – A federal judge has extended a ban on United Airlines putting employees on unpaid leave for seeking a medical or religious exemption from the airline’s requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

United States (US) District Judge Mark Pittman in Fort Worth, Texas, granted a restraining order on Tuesday in favour of employees who are suing the airline over the mandate.

Lawyers for the employees and the airline agreed last month that United wouldn’t put the workers on unpaid leave, but the judge wrote that the agreement will expire before he can rule on the merits of the matter. That would leave “hundreds of workers” at risk of being put on indefinite unpaid leave or forced to get a vaccination that violates their religious beliefs or medical restrictions.

The restraining order expires on October 26.

The suing employees are seeking to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit. United said some 2,000 of its 67,000 US employees asked for exemptions from vaccination.

A United spokeswoman said on Wednesday the company was working with vaccine-exempt employees on safety measures including testing, face masks and temporary job reassignments.

United Airlines planes parked at San Francisco International Airport. PHOTO: AP