United Airlines says more than 97% of its US-based employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 now that there is less than a week left before a deadline to get vaccinated or be fired.
The airline said on Wednesday that the new figure did not include a “small number” of employees seeking medical or religious exemption from vaccination.
“The vaccine requirements are working,” United said in a note to employees.
Eight United Airlines employees based at DFW International Airport are suing the carrier over its vaccination warrant program, the Dallas Morning News reports. Employees are represented by the Dallas law firm Stewart, Wiegand and Owens.
“United’s actions have left plaintiffs with an impossible choice to take the COVID-19 vaccine, to the detriment of their religious beliefs and health, or to lose their livelihood,” say employee lawyers in their lawsuit , which was filed with the federal government. district court in Fort Worth, Texas.
Four of six employees said they requested religious exemptions because of their belief that the vaccines were developed from aborted fetal tissue, one said she was allergic to eggs and penicillin, and another said that ‘he suffered from multiple sclerosis and that his neurologist had recommended not to vaccinate. All were granted exemptions, but were told they would be put on unpaid leave, according to the lawsuit.
United Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott said the company “is looking into this complaint in more detail, but at this point we believe it is without merit.”
The airline said last month that up to 90% of pilots and nearly 80% of flight attendants were vaccinated, but did not give a figure for all U.S. employees at the time.
United have said they will begin dismissal proceedings next Tuesday against employees who have not been vaccinated and have not been granted an exemption.
The airline is one of a small group of companies that announced they would require vaccinations even before September 9, when President Joe Biden issued an executive order ordering employers of more than 100 workers to require vaccinations or weekly tests for the virus.
Last month, United set September 27 – next Monday – as the deadline for its 67,000 US-based employees to be vaccinated or fired. However, employees who unsuccessfully request an exemption may get more time. They will have five weeks after their refusal to be vaccinated.
Chicago-based United declined to give an exact figure for how many workers have requested an exemption and how many have been granted.
Employees who obtain an exemption will be placed on leave as of October 2. Some could return if they wear masks and are tested weekly, although the timing of their return is uncertain.