A federal judge blocked United Airlines from suspending its employees while they seek exemptions to the airline’s vaccine mandate.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman agreed with six United employees who sued the company that United cannot put employees on indefinite leaves of absence if they request religious or medical exemptions. This week, he extended that decision.
“The Court now concludes it is necessary to issue this Temporary Restraining Order to avoid risking irreparable injury and to maintain the status quo in this case pending the Court’s hearing and resolution of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction,” Pittman wrote in his ruling.
The injunction is necessary because, without it in place, there would be nothing to prevent hundreds of workers from either “being compelled to take a vaccination in violation of their religious beliefs or medical restrictions, or being placed on indefinite unpaid leave by United,” he added.
The order will expire on Oct. 26, and an evidentiary hearing must be held before a final decision can be made, Pittman concluded.
United has defended its vaccine mandate despite backlash from its employees, arguing forced vaccination is necessary to preserve the public health of the company.
“Vaccine requirements work, and nearly all of United’s U.S. employees have chosen to get a shot,” a United Airlines spokesperson said in a statement.
“For a number of our employees who were approved for an accommodation, we’re working to put options in place that reduce the risk to their health and safety, including new testing regimens, temporary job reassignments, and masking protocols,” said the statement.
Hundreds of United employees have resisted the mandate, which has resulted in the termination of 232 workers. Some 2,000 employees are seeking exemptions from the mandate.