Southwest nixes unpaid leave plans for some unvaccinated staff

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Southwest Airlines has nixed its plan to put unvaccinated workers seeking religious or medical exemption on unpaid leave starting in December if their requests haven’t been approved yet.

The airline said in a memo to staffers on Friday that if their exemption requests weren’t approved by the federal deadline on Dec. 8, they could continue to work until the company reviews their application, CNBC reported.

“This is a change from what was previously communicated. Initially, we communicated that these Employees would be put on unpaid leave and that is no longer the case,” the memo reportedly said.

Employees will be given until Nov. 24 to complete their vaccination regimen or apply for an exemption. 

If employees’ exemption requests are denied, they can reapply if they have “new information or circumstances it would like the Company to consider,” according to the memo.

Southwest plane.
Southwest employees have until Nov. 24 to complete their vaccination regimen or apply for an exemption.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Southwest had announced on Oct. 4 that it would comply with federal regulations and mandate that all of its employees be vaccinated.

A union for the airline’s 9,000 pilots has asked a federal court to block the airline’s vaccination mandate.

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