Several major corporations have already imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates in accordance with the recommendations put forth by the Biden administration.
In response to such a move by United Airlines, several employees have sued over alleged discrimination and retaliation for noncompliance. A federal judge, however, denied their request for a preliminary injunction to block the employer’s actions.
“The best way to keep everyone safe”
As such, United can proceed with its plans to place unvaccinated employees — including those who had received a medical or religious exemption — on indefinite unpaid leave.
The airline reacted to the decision with a statement provided to The Hill, explaining: “We’re pleased with the court’s decision today. We know that the best way to keep everyone as safe as we can is for everyone to get vaccinated, as nearly all United employees have chosen to do.”
U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman issued a temporary restraining order last month to forestall any action by United against its unvaccinated employees.
A two-page ruling revealed his determination that “it is necessary to issue this Temporary Restraining Order to avoid risking the irreparable injury and to maintain the status quo in this case pending the Court’s hearing and resolution” of the employees’ request.
At that point, dates were set for future briefings and hearings during which United was enjoined from engaging in any punitive measures against the plaintiffs.
“Arguments appear compelling and convincing”
Unfortunately for the six employees, however, Pittman ultimately found their arguments to be unpersuasive, as he subsequently explained in a 15-page ruling issued on Monday.
The judge responded to four separate arguments meant to show that the employees would suffer “irreparable harm” in the absence of an injunction.
Pittman determined that all of the issues — including religious concerns, the loss of seniority, the loss of income and other benefits, and deterioration of skills — could be addressed and repaired at some point in the future.
Although the latest ruling is a victory for the airline, it might be only temporary. Pittman seemed to suggest in his ruling that he remained sympathetic to the plight of the employees and that their “arguments appear compelling and convincing at this stage.”
In the end, the judge might ultimately rule against United’s mandate and even order the airline to compensate impacted employees.