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Surprised??? Southwest Airlines Halts Unpaid Leave Policy

“We Intend to Grant All Valid Requests for Accommodations”

Southwest Airlines has acquiesced from an earlier policy of barring employees who have not received the COVID-19 vaccination.

Earlier, the company had used the Biden administration’s executive order deadline of December 8 as a cutoff, wherein any employees, no matter the reason for their unvaccinated status, would be forced on unpaid leave until treated.

Brandy King, Southwest spokeswoman, said that employees must either submit proof they have been treated, or file a request for exemption by November 24. Under the revised policy, all employees would have been barred from work, even if their application had been submitted, pending acceptance. “While we intend to grant all valid requests for accommodations, in the event a request is not granted, the company will provide adequate time for an employee to become fully vaccinated while continuing to work and adhering to safety protocols," King said.

This change follows fellow Texas native, American Airlines, where they recently publicized a similar decision to allow work to continue. A contentious issue, a number of legal challenges, lawsuits, and arguments from pilot groups has muddied the waters and further complicated timelines for workers. The Texas Governor had placed an order for businesses not to require employees or customers to be vaccinated, but both companies consider the Federal mandate to take precedence. Both Airlines say they will comply with the mandate, which they must uphold in order to retain their status as federal contractors. 

Gary Kelly, Southwest President, has been reluctant to let the company be forced into this position. In a TV interview with ABC he said no SWA personnel would lose work over their status. “We are not going to fire any employees over this, we are urging all our employees to get vaccinated. If they can't get vaccinated, we're urging them to seek an accommodation."

FMI: www.southwest.com

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