Vaccine Mandate Update
APA continues to monitor the various lawsuits challenging the Executive Order requiring federal contractors to mandate COVID-19 vaccines.
As a result of a decision by a federal district court in Georgia this week in a case brought on behalf of a number of states, state agencies, and a national trade association, enforcement of the federal contractor mandate by the federal government has been temporarily enjoined pending further litigation. The decision to temporarily halt enforcement of the mandate is the first procedural step in that particular case. The contractor mandate has not been struck down permanently or found to be unlawful by virtue of this decision.
There are several other cases pending in various federal courts related to the same or similar issues and these cases will continue to be litigated in the district courts and the federal Courts of Appeals, and possibly the Supreme Court, in the coming weeks and months. To date, no pilot or flight attendant union has successfully sued to challenge the legality of an airline vaccine mandate or has sued the federal government challenging the legality of the Executive Order.
American Airlines has indicated that its current mandate, which requires all employees to submit proof of vaccination or apply for an exemption from the vaccine requirement by Jan. 4, 2022, remains in effect notwithstanding the temporary injunction. The temporary halt on the federal government’s ability to compel contractors to mandate vaccinations among their employees renders the company’s decision to maintain the mandate at this time an employment requirement for which no bargaining with APA has yet occurred. Consequently, if any pilot is found to be non-compliant with the mandate by the deadline date, it will be APA’s position that no discipline may be imposed based upon an alleged violation of this non-bargained-for term of employment.
We understand that many pilots have been vaccinated since the announcement of the mandate, and we are aware that there is an additional large number of pilots who have submitted requests for exemptions from the vaccinate requirement. To date, APA is not aware of any pilot who has had an exemption request denied by the company. Those pilots who have yet to get vaccinated because they are unable to do so for medical or religious reasons are encouraged to submit a request for an exemption and an accommodation no later than Jan. 4, if they have not already done so.
Management has repeatedly indicated, and recently reiterated, that it does not plan to terminate any employees for non-compliance with the vaccine mandate. APA fully intends to hold the company to that commitment. APA continues to engage management regarding the mandate and maintains its position that the company must negotiate over all related issues, such as the implementation of any accommodations which fall outside of or are inconsistent with our collective bargaining agreement.
APA’s various subject-matter experts will continue closely monitoring COVID-19-related developments, including the ongoing litigation concerning the vaccine mandate.