Southwest latest to require COVID-19 shot to ‘continue employment with airline’

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In this Nov. 18, 2020 file photo, a worker uses a flashlight to inspect an engine on a Boeing 737 Max 8 built for Southwest Airlines at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

DALLAS (ABC4) – Yet another major airline is requiring its employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or risk losing their job.

After completing a review of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, Southwest Airlines says it has determined the “carrier’s contracts with the U.S. government require full compliance with the federal vaccination directive.”

In a Monday statement, Southwest says it will require its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – or be approved for a religious, medical, or disability accommodation – by December 8, 2021, “to continue employment with the airline.”

“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” says Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO. “I encourage all Southwest Employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”

In late September, United Airlines hit the deadline for its employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine – or else. United Airlines told ABC4 affiliate KDVR that more than 97% of employees were vaccinated just ahead of the Sept. 27 deadline, aside from a small number who submitted exemptions. For those who have yet to receive at least one shot, and have not been granted an extension, United has said it will start “the separation process” as early as Sept. 28.

Six United Airlines employees are asking a federal judge to block the airline’s vaccine requirement. The employees, including two pilots and a flight attendant, are accusing the airline of a “pattern of discrimination” against employees who requested religious or medical accommodations. They claim the policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil rights Act. 

Aside from United, Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have previously said they would also will require all employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations by Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, respectively, or show proof of negative COVID-19 test on a regular basis. Alaska Airlines, too, said it was looking into vaccine requirements “closely.”

Delta Airlines, meanwhile, said it would require vaccines for all new hires and now has implemented a $200 monthly surcharge for employees who don’t get the vaccine, and are on the company health plan. The airline later confirmed that at least a fifth of its unvaccinated employees decided to get the shot.

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