Southwest Airlines has announced that it will not fire or suspend any of its staff who file for vaccine exemptions.
The Dallas-based airline giant had previously stated it would comply with President Joe Biden’s executive order that required vaccinations or regular testing for staff of organizations with one hundred or more workers. The earlier decision meant workers who filed for COVID-19 vaccine exemptions were facing termination or at least a suspension.
However, Southwest Airlines told its employee union that staff who file exemptions would be allowed to remain in their jobs as long as they agree to take adequate measures to protect themselves and others from the virus. The measures include wearing masks and regular testing.
Southwest said in a statement that while it intends to grant all valid requests for medical and religious accommodations, it will provide adequate time for employees to become fully vaccinated while continuing to work and adhering to safety protocols if their request is not granted.
Southwest’s competitor, American Airlines, also told its employee union that it would not fire workers who filed for vaccine exemptions.
American spokesman, Matt Miller, said in a statement that “American will not be placing any team members on unpaid leave as part of the federal vaccine mandate.”
However, American said it would move forward with its plan to fire workers who refuse to submit proof of vaccination or apply for an exemption after Nov. 24.
The announcements come after employee protests from both Texas-based airlines. The protests were against the previous decisions of the airline giants to comply with President Biden’s executive order. They were staged outside both airlines’ corporate headquarters, with some workers saying they would rather breathe and be fired than get the vaccine.
Both airlines are now encouraging employees who do not want the vaccine to apply for exemptions.