United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL), announced that starting March 28, it will allow unvaccinated workers to return to their jobs. The move is surprising as the company previously had one of the country’s strictest inoculation mandates.
“The daily average of COVID cases has dropped more than 90% and related hospitalizations have declined more than two-thirds from their January 2022 peak,” United said in a memo to employees today. “In fact, we’re seeing new case reports reaching their lowest levels since last summer. And while mask requirements remain in place onboard our aircraft and in our airports, many cities and states are lifting COVID restrictions and the CDC recently relaxed its mask guidelines.”
“These changes suggest that the pandemic is beginning to meaningfully recede. As a result, we’re confident we can safely begin the process of returning our RAP employees to their jobs.”
Workers that were granted exemptions were either placed on unpaid leave or moved into positions that did not require them to interact with customers. Nevertheless, the nearly 200 workers that were fired for not being vaccinated or for not having further accommodations, will not be asked to come back.
Amid a fall in Covid cases, hospitalizations and the ease in masking requirements within several cities “suggest that the pandemic is beginning to meaningfully recede,” Kirk Limacher, vice president of human resources, said in a staff note. “As a result, we’re confident we can safely begin the process” for the return of staff with exemptions.
“Of course, if another variant emerges or the COVID trends suddenly reverse course, we will reevaluate the appropriate safety protocols at that time,” Limacher said.