Unvaccinated United Airlines employees who sought medical or religious exemptions will be able to return to work Monday, according to an internal memo.
More than 2,000 employees with an approved request for reasonable accommodation (RAP) and who have been out on unpaid leave will be able to return to their normal positions, United Vice President of Human Resources Kirk Limacher said in a memo, reviewed by FOX Business.
Limacher said the carrier is confident in its ability to safely bring back such employees, citing a decline in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide.
"As the Omicron surge shows clear signs of receding and as we’ve seen how high the protection remains for those of you who are vaccinated, we’re using that same commitment to safety and science to ensure our policies reflect the broader shift to the endemic stage of the pandemic," Limacher said.
As part of the airline’s comprehensive vaccine policy, about 67,000 U.S.-based employees faced a deadline last September for getting vaccinated or risk losing their job – barring some exemptions.
In October 2021, the company fired more than 230 employees that refused to get vaccinated against the virus by the carrier's deadline. Those fired did not seek an exemption, a United Airlines spokesperson previously told FOX Business.
United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart previously told employees in a joint memo that more than 99% of its U.S.-based employees, aside from those who submitted for accommodation, had already been vaccinated since the airline rolled out its policy on Aug. 6.
Kirby and Hart, in the latest memo, said parting ways with unvaccinated employees in October was done out of a matter of safety.
"Since November – a time that included the record-breaking Omicron surge – our vaccinated employees were remarkably safe compared to our employees who were on an approved request for reasonable accommodation (RAP), as well as compared to the general population," Limacher said, adding that five out of the 2,200 employees who had received an exemption have died.
Limacher also informed employees that the company will reevaluate protocols "if another variant emerges or the COVID trends suddenly reverse course."