Southwest Airlines appears to have reversed its mandatory vaccine policy that would have seen employees placed on “unpaid leave” similar to being fired but without the ability to file for unemployment. Now the airline says no one will be placed on unpaid leave, including those who apply for a vaccine exemption and have their application denied.
Last week two senior executives at Southwest Airlines wrote to staff to tell employees to keep showing up to work even if their vaccine exemption has not been processed by December 8, what was previously a cutoff day that would determine their ability to work for Southwest.
The company previously gave its employees until November 24 to become “fully vaccinated” and or file their request for an exemption. The airline now says it will continue to pay employees while their exemption request is examined, and Southwest promises they will “coordinate with them on meeting the requirements (vaccine or valid accommodation)” with those who are not granted an exemption. One executive told staff that employees can reapply repeatedly if they have “new information or circumstances it would like the Company to consider.”
Previously, employees were told they would be placed on an indefinite unpaid leave if they were not vaccinated by December.
This comes after Southwest Airlines reportedly suffered what many called a “sick-out” that apparently grounded thousands of flights across multiple days as airline workers refused to show up amid fears their job would soon be terminated over vaccine status. Southwest repeatedly claimed weather in Florida forced them to close thousands of flights across the country.
The decision came after the Southwest headquarters was mobbed by “hundreds” of employees protesting the airline’s divisive vaccine mandate yesterday.
“Southwest acknowledges various viewpoints regarding the Covid-19 vaccine, and we have always supported, and will continue to support, our employees’ right to express themselves, with open lines of communication to share issues and concerns,” claimed a spokeswoman.
The airline’s CEO, Gary Kelly, recently appeared on national media to both claim the airline’s grounded flights had nothing to do with the vaccine mandate, but also to reassure employees. “We’re not going to fire any employees over this,” Kelly claimed. “We’re urging all of our employees to get vaccinated. If they can’t get vaccinated, we’re urging them to seek an accommodation.” He added, “So, we’ll do everything we can to support our people here.”
Southwest and other airlines appear to be acting as though they are legally required to comply with a federal vaccine mandate, ostensibly Joe Biden’s proposed mandate that would see employers with over 100 employees fined if all are not vaccinated.
In reality, Biden has not signed such an executive order, and Congress has not proposed or passed any such law. Biden appears to be ruling as if he were a monarch, as merely saying something aloud has been enough to provoke nationwide vaccine mandates from employers.
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