And for their refusal, many workers were sent packing -- fired outright or told to stay away from their jobs until they capitulated on the vaccine.
Many still refused, but now it appears that they are being vindicated as companies, including United Airlines, find themselves very short of employees and are thus calling unvaccinated workers back to fill open slots.
In short, it looks like it really wasn't all that important for workers to be vaccinated after all.
Unvaccinated employees can return to their positions on March 28, according to the memorandum, which was sent to workers on Thursday morning.
Kirk Limacher, vice president of human resources at United, said the change was due to the plunge in COVID-19 cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations across the country in recent weeks. Many states and cities are lifting COVID-19 restrictions, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dramatically eased its masking guidance, he noted.
“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,” Limacher noted in the memo.
Last fall, United imposed a vaccine mandate on all 67,000 U.S.-based employees, then in line with a federal mandate imposed by the Biden regime for federal workers and contractors (airlines fall under the latter; the U.S. Supreme Court has since ruled that the contractor mandate is unconstitutional). United was the first U.S. air carrier to impose a mandate.
When the mandate was enacted, the airline said that employees could apply for a medical or religious exemption, but if either one was declared reasonable, known as a RAP in company parlance, then the worker would be moved to unpaid indefinite leave rather than being permitted to remain on the job. Later, United allowed some of those workers to switch jobs rather than be placed on unpaid leave, The Epoch Times notes further.
At the time, United CEO Scott Kirby told workers "to be very careful about" requesting exemptions and accommodations, noting that they were putting their employment at risk if they did so.
The policy, however, led to a lawsuit by employees, which is continuing. In a February ruling, a federal court noted that the airline's mandate was "actively coercing employees to abandon their convictions."
In the end, United fired more than 200 employees for not getting a vaccine, but the company would not say when contacted by The Epoch Times if those fired workers will be offered their jobs again.
John Sullivan, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told The Epoch Times in an email: “We are gratified to see United returning employees to work since they should have never been put on unpaid leave for their faith or health. Hopefully people are beginning to see that individual rights should not be swept aside even during a pandemic.”
In the memorandum, Limacher said workers who were granted an exemption would be sent an email Thursday with instructions about how to get back on "active status" or how they could transition from their current position if they were allowed to move to a job that did not involve interactions with customers.
“Of course, if another variant emerges or the COVID trends suddenly reverse course, we will reevaluate the appropriate safety protocols at that time,” he wrote.
There was no reason to impose this vaccine mandate in the first place, and now companies hurting for help are realizing that.