Months after Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order purporting to ban COVID vaccine mandates of all kinds in Texas, one of the nation’s largest airlines is telling its employees it doesn’t apply to them.
In an internal email to employees, shared by the Texas Freedom Coalition, the Chicago-based company says it will continue to mandate COVID vaccination for its employees:
United has received requests from some employees seeking to be exempted from United’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement because of the Texas Governor’s recent executive order. You should be aware that the provisions of the Texas order do not apply to United employees, and in any event do not support a request for an exemption.
First, United remains subject to a federal executive order requiring the vaccination of federal contractor employees. This order supersedes any contrary state or local law or ordinance. No federal court has yet invalidated or suspended the federal order, even though its enforcement has been suspended. Moreover, the Texas order is also preempted by other federal laws like the Federal Aviation Act, the Airline Deregulation Act, and general principles of federal preemption.
Second, by its terms, the Texas order applies only to current employees who workin Texas. if your work reporting location is in any other jurisdiction, you are not covered by the Texas order, even if you choose to spend your non-work time in Texas. Likewise, if your employment with United has ended due to termination or retirement, you are not covered by the Texas order.
Finally, even for current employees who work in Texas – and even assuming the Texas order were otherwise applicable – that order merely requires that a private employer must provide various exemptions if it imposes a vaccine requirement. United has already provided reasonable accommodations to employees who sought and were entitled to them. Accordingly, if you received an accommodation under United’s vaccine policy, you have already been provided with any relief that might otherwise be required under the Texas order.
The airline told Texas Scorecard that they would also work to “identify non-customer facing roles where accommodated employees can apply and continue working until it is safe for them to their return to their current positions.”
Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld United’s vaccine mandate in a lawsuit filed by employees.
While various federal vaccine mandates have been making their way through the courts, Gov. Abbott’s executive order from October banning vaccine mandates from all entities has largely been ignored. Earlier this month, Abbott announced the creation of a “hotline” operated by the Texas Workforce Commission to report employers who violate the order and require vaccinations.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Texas has been calling for a fourth special session to address vaccine mandates. So far, Abbott has declined to call the Legislature back into session.