Southwest reverses course on vaccine mandate penalties

It’s being reported this morning that Southwest has reversed course on the penalties for noncompliance with Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Before, Southwest had told employees that if they weren’t vaccinated or hadn’t received an exemption by December 8th, they would be put on unpaid leave.

But now, in an effort to keep employees working, they are asking all who don’t want to be vaccinated to apply for an exemption. And if that exemption hasn’t been approved by the deadline, they can continue working while the airline works to approve it.

To those whose request gets rejected, they can now continue working while the airline seeks to provide some kind of accommodation like weekly testing. This accommodation isn’t supposed to be an option under Biden’s mandate for federal employees and contractors.

Here’s more from CNBC:

Southwest Airlines has scrapped a plan to put unvaccinated employees who have applied for but haven’t received a religious or medical exemption on unpaid leave starting by a federal deadline in December.

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are among the carriers that are federal contractors and subject to a Biden administration requirement that their employees are vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 8 unless they are exempt for medical or religious reasons. Rules for federal contractors are stricter than those expected for large companies, which will allow for regular Covid testing as an alterative to a vaccination.

Southwest’s senior vice president of operations and hospitality, Steve Goldberg, and Julie Weber, vice president and chief people officer, wrote to staff on Friday that if employees’ requests for an exemption haven’t been approved by Dec. 8, they could continue to work while following mask and distancing guidelines until the request has been reviewed.

The company is giving employees until Nov. 24 to finish their vaccinations or apply for an exemption. It will continue paying them while the company reviews their requests, and said it will allow those who are rejected to continue working “as we coordinate with them on meeting the requirements (vaccine or valid accommodation).”

“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,” they wrote in the note, which was reviewed by CNBC.

Southwest confirmed the policy change, which comes just weeks before the deadline.

This is definitely an improvement and I appreciate that they are trying to preserve the jobs of their employees and their ability to do business while complying with this unconscionable mandate. It is more than clear to everyone that if they don’t do something to keep their employees, it will not only result in employees losing jobs but will also create more pandemonium while will lead to very unhappy customers. Just like we saw a couple of weeks ago.

I still wish, however, they would sue the Biden administration to stop this mandate from going into effect.

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