United Airlines will not be renewing the contracts of 593 employees who have declined to be vaccinated for infectious diseases, the Chicago-based carrier announced Friday.
“It’s unfortunate that some customers and our team members have to decide whether to protect themselves and others by getting the critical vaccines required for jobs,” said Matt Miller, United’s director of human resources and safety, in a statement. “We strive to hire employees who are team players, who value their safety and health and who want to work for a healthy airline.”
This includes patients with a number of chronic and serious illnesses — such as cancer, HIV, hepatitis B and C, and “other serious illnesses” — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2013, the CDC said that by not being vaccinated, such people were risking their own health and making their coworkers and others more susceptible to the diseases.
United will continue to provide vaccines to all members of its cleaning crews, calling service, or qualified maintenance personnel who are required to work on aircraft during the second and third phases of maintenance when an exemption would not be valid.
Employees who qualify for an exemption must sign an affidavit which indicates their intent to abide by the vaccine schedule and must complete vaccination counseling at least a month before they begin work.
Miller said that in order to ensure a “more uniform and efficient rollout of the immunization protocol,” United is phasing in some of the hires who are eligible for exemptions and “is not renewing the contracts of other employees who declined to take the immunizations.”
The layoff comes less than two weeks after CNN reported the airline had suspended a food safety manager who had refused to be vaccinated against salmonella.
United’s announcement comes less than a week after a second employee, a 10-year veteran at United, contacted the company to say he too would not be vaccinated. The airline said that the employee requested an exemption, and said the staff member’s choice to not be vaccinated was a “personal and private matter.”