If exemption requests have not been reviewed or approved by Dec. 8, employees will continue to work and get paid. They will have to follow mask and social distancing guidelines.
Southwest Airlines will not be placing unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave as they wait for their exemption requests to be reviewed, the company said.
Under President Joe Biden’s mandate for federal contractors, employees must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 8 unless they have received a medical or religious exemption.
Southwest had initially said employees who did not meet the requirement by the deadline would be placed on unpaid leave but recently changed course, according to CNBC. In a note to staff on Friday, airline officials said employees could continue to work and get paid but would have to follow face mask and social distancing guidelines if their requests for exemption were pending.
“This is a change from what was previously communicated,” said senior vice president of operations and hospitality, Steve Goldberg, and vice president and chief people officer, Julie Weber. “Initially, we communicated that these employees would be put on unpaid leave and that is no longer the case.”
CNBC said it had reviewed the note. If a worker’s request is denied, Southwest said it will continue working with the employee “as we coordinate with them on meeting the requirements (vaccine or valid accommodation).” The employee would also have the opportunity to reapply for an exemption if they have new information they want the company to consider.
Southwest is giving its employees until Nov. 24 to apply for an exemption.
NBC News has not reviewed the letter. A company spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that its policy was changed last week.
“If an accommodation has not been reviewed or approved by December 8, the employee will continue to work, while following all Covid mask and distancing guidelines applicable to their position, until the accommodation has been processed,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “While we intend to grant all valid requests for medical and/or religious accommodations, in the event a request is not granted, the company will provide adequate time for an employee to become fully vaccinated while continuing to work and adhering to safety protocols.”Internet Explorer Channel Network