OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Federal Judge Mark T. Pittman, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, has issued a temporary restraining order against United Airlines over its vaccine mandate.
The order came on Wednesday and it stops United Airlines from imposing its vaccine mandate on employees, Breitbart News reported.
According to the judicial order, which could be the first of its kind in the country against a coronavirus vaccine mandate, United Airlines is prohibited from placing employees with religious and medical exemptions on unpaid leave until October 26 while litigation continues. The judge also prohibited the airline from denying any employee requests for religious or medical exemptions. Previously, the airline did not allow employees to apply for an exemption after August 31.
Earlier in the case, the airline agreed of its own accord to postpone its vaccine mandate until October 15 for employees with exemptions during litigation. The day before the October 8 hearing, however, United filed a partial motion to dismiss, alleging the court lacked jurisdiction over the claims in the lawsuit. In order to allow the court reasonable time to respond to the jurisdictional challenge and to rule in the evidentiary hearing for a preliminary injunction, which was reset for Wednesday, the judge issued the TRO.
United Airlines originally told its 67,000 U.S. employees they must be vaccinated against Chinese coronavirus (or secure an exemption) by September 27 or face termination. As the airline’s vaccine mandate stands, any employees with exemptions would still be considered employed but would be placed on unpaid leave and would lose their benefits for up to six years or until the airline deems pandemic conditions safe for unvaccinated employees to return, according to the complaint.
“The Court now concludes it is necessary to issue this Temporary Restraining Order to avoid risking irreparable injury and to maintain the status quo in this case pending the Court’s hearing and resolution of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Specifically, the parties stipulated on September 24, 2021, that United would temporarily refrain from placing exempted employees on leave due to their lack of compliance with United’s vaccine mandate. Absent entry of this Temporary Restraining Order, the parties’ stipulation will expire before the Court can rule on whether a preliminary injunction is warranted,” the court said.
“If the parties’ stipulation were to expire without temporary injunctive relief in place, nothing would prevent hundreds of workers from ostensibly either: (1) being compelled to take a vaccination in violation of their religious beliefs or medical restrictions, or (2) being placed on indefinite unpaid leave by United. To be sure, the Court is not currently ruling on the merits of the parties’ arguments on these points. Rather, the Court seeks simply to avoid the risk of irreparable harm to the parties and to maintain the status quo while the Court holds an evidentiary hearing on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction and issues an Order on the same,” it said.
“It is, therefore, ORDERED that, for the duration of this Temporary Restraining Order, United Airlines, Inc. is TEMPORARILY RESTRAINED and ENJOINED from placing any employee on unpaid leave if that employee was granted either a religious or medical exemption from United Airlines, Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
It is further ORDERED that United Airlines, Inc. is TEMPORARILY RESTRAINED and ENJOINED from denying any requests for religious or medical accommodations from United Airlines, Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate due to timeliness (i.e., because the requests were submitted after the August 31, 2021 deadline),” it said.
The court set a date for an evidentiary hearing on October 13, 2021 at 9:30 a.m.
“It is unconscionable to force any person to undergo a medical treatment that they object to as a matter of faith,” Ken Blackwell, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and who is now with the American Constitutional Rights Union, said. “When so many other nations recognize that there is no medical reason for people with natural immunity to take a vaccine, it is essential that America lead the way to protect our citizens’ rights on that front also.”