New restrictions from American Airlines as it says most employees complying with vaccine mandate

Jan 10, 2022

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On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, American Airlines announced new restrictions for its unvaccinated U.S. employees. The Jan. 7 statement from American indicated that more than 96% of its employees had either submitted proof of vaccination or requested a religious or medical accommodation from the mandate.

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Going forward, the airline said it will impose additional requirements for unvaccinated U.S.-based employees. Those who are unvaccinated must “complete a weekly self-health declaration, practice social distancing when possible and wear a mask at all times, except when outside and social distancing can be maintained.”

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The requirements apply even to those who have received approved accommodations from the vaccine mandate.

American employees had previously faced a deadline of Jan. 4 to provide proof of vaccination or receive an exemption. However, ongoing legal challenges to federal vaccine mandates have left airlines with little choice but to move the goalposts on their own internal directives.

Related: Dr. Fauci clarifies that travelers shouldn’t expect a domestic flight vaccine mandate

Fort Worth-based American has faced pushback from employees regarding the mandates over the past few months, as have other airlines.

At this point, it appears that courts will be the ultimate arbiter of how the mandates play out in the airline industry.

On Friday the oral argument before the Supreme Court involved the vaccine mandates for healthcare providers and  for companies with more than 100 workers. Legal observers noted that the Court seemed skeptical of the rule, which affects more than 80 million U.S. workers.

Airlines, however, also fall under a separate mandate for federal workers because of their work as federal contractors. That rule was not at issue before the Supreme Court on Friday. It is currently being challenged in other federal courts, though, so the matter may remain in flux for the foreseeable future.

The new rules at American Airlines are set to take effect on Jan. 17. It is not immediately clear what will happen to the 4% of employees who are unvaccinated and have not received an exemption.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

 

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