Southwest Won't Put Unvaxxed Workers on Leave

Airline scraps its plan for December
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 5, 2021 10:10 AM CDT
Updated Oct 19, 2021 11:25 AM CDT
Southwest to Workers: Get Vaxxed by Dec. 8
This July 17, 2019, file photo shows Southwest Airlines planes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Update: Southwest Airlines has dropped plans to put unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave in December, reports CNBC. The airline originally told employees they must get their shots—unless they have a medical or religious exemption—to comply with new federal regulations. But the company now says those who fail to get a vaccination or an exemption can continue working “as we coordinate with them on meeting the requirements," per CNBC. "Initially, we communicated that these Employees would be put on unpaid leave and that is no longer the case,” says a company note to workers. It wasn't immediately clear if unvaccinated employees would eventually be penalized. Our original file from Oct. 5 follows:

Southwest Airlines on Monday became the latest US airline to require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Dallas-based company said its workers must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 in order to remain at the airline. Employees can seek approval to skip the shots due to medical or religious reasons, per the AP. Southwest said it has to mandate vaccines because of new rules from the Biden administration requiring companies with federal contracts to have vaccinated staffs. Southwest's work for the government includes flying the military in emergencies and carrying mail for the US Postal Service.

Last week, rivals American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue told their staffs they needed to be vaccinated. United Airlines in August was the first major airline to do so and has since said that more than 99% of its workers have been vaccinated. United also said it would put staff who couldn't get the shots due to medical or religious reasons on unpaid leave until COVID-19 rates go down. Southwest has 54,000 employees. (Read more Southwest Airlines stories.)

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