United Airlines said on Friday that it would require all U.S. employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus starting this fall. It was the first major airline to establish such a mandate and the latest in a small but growing number of businesses to do so.
“We have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: Everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated,” Scott Kirby, the airline’s chief executive, and Brett Hart, its president, said in a memo to their staff.
Employees will be required to upload proof of vaccination within five weeks of the Federal Drug Administration fully approving a vaccine or by Oct. 25, whichever comes first. Those who provide proof by Sept. 20 will receive a full day’s pay, excluding pilots and flight attendants who have already received a union-negotiated bonus for getting vaccinated. So far, about 90 percent of United’s pilots and 80 percent of its flight attendants have been vaccinated, the airline said.
Employees who fail to comply with the new policy will be fired. And while United will allow exceptions for religious or medical reasons, it will require documentation.
Mr. Kirby first floated the idea of a mandate at an internal town hall in January, saying that United would be “amongst the first wave of companies” to require vaccination.
Delta Air Lines requires new employees to be vaccinated, but existing employees are exempt. American Airlines is “not putting mandates in place” for employees or customers, its chief executive, Doug Parker, said in an interview with the New York Times columnist Kara Swisher.
Airlines have generally dismissed the idea of mandates for customers. Mr. Parker said in the interview that doing so would create “enormous delays.” Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said on CNBC this week that it would be “very difficult” to require customers to receive a vaccine that hasn’t yet been fully federally approved.
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CNN said on Thursday that it had fired three employees who violated its coronavirus safety protocols by going to the office unvaccinated, one of the first known examples of a major American corporation’s terminating workers for ignoring a workplace vaccination mandate.
The network has been relying on an honor system rather than requiring proof of vaccination status. “Let me be clear — we have a zero-tolerance policy on this,” CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, wrote in an internal memo on Thursday.
Amazon told its corporate employees that they did not need to return to their offices until Jan. 3, pushing back a deadline that had been set for early September.
The notification to employees did not indicate any changes to Amazon’s vaccination policy, which encourages but does not mandate vaccines, or its mask policy, which allows workers at both its corporate offices and warehouses to be unmasked if they provide proof of vaccination.
BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, and Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest banks, said in internal memos to U.S. employees that they would postpone their mandatory return plans until early October, from September.
When BlackRock employees return to their offices in larger numbers, the money manager will introduce a hybrid policy whereby employees can work three days per week in the office and two from a remote location.