Southwest changes course on unpaid leave for unvaccinated staff as deadline approaches

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Southwest Airlines (LCV) changed its policy to put unpaid leave of absence unvaccinated workers who requested religious or medical exemptions but did not receive approval by the federal deadline of December 8.

According to a memo obtained by CNBC of Steve Goldberg, senior vice president of operations and hospitality at Southwest, and Julie Weber, vice president and director of human resources, Southwest will allow employees who have requested an exemption that was not approved by December 8 to continue working for the airline.

“This is a change from what was previously communicated. At first, we communicated that these employees would be put on unpaid leave and this is no longer the case “, we can read in the note.

Employees must wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines while reviewing their exemption request, according to the memo.

Southwest has said it will continue to pay workers while it reviews their exemptions.

As a federal contractor, Southwest is subject to the Biden administration’s COVID vaccination requirements which require all government employees to be vaccinated by December 8, unless they have a medical or religious exemption. On Monday, some Southwest employees protested outside the company’s Dallas headquarters to “stop the warrant.”

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are also federal contractors who must adhere to the federal government’s mandate, while United Airlines issued a company-wide vaccine mandate for its employees in August.

United said more than 96% of its workforce is vaccinated, while Delta announced in August that unvaccinated employees would have to pay an additional $ 200 per month for the company’s health insurance premiums, starting in November. . About 90% of Delta’s 80,000 workers would be vaccinated.

At 11:55 a.m. ET on Tuesday, shares of Southwest Airlines were trading at $ 49.58, down $ 0.19, or 0.39%.

Southwest Airlines has again extended the time to resume flights on the Boeing 737 MAX, this time until mid-April 2020 Photo: AFP / Mark RALSTON


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