Delta Air Lines is requiring all new employees get vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, one of the first U.S. companies to mandate the shots.
“Delta will require all new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they qualify for an accommodation,” the company said in a statement.
The requirement will protect Delta’s employees and customers, ensuring the airline can safely operate as the number of fliers rise, the company said.
“I’m not going to mandate and force people if they have some specific reason why they don’t want to get vaccinated, but I’m going to strongly encourage them and make sure they understand the risks to not getting vaccinated,” CEO Ed Bastian told CNN in a recent interview at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, which is being used as a vaccination center.
“One caveat to that, though. Any person joining Delta in the future, future employees, we’re going to mandate they be vaccinated before they can sign up with the company,” he added.
Over 60 percent of Delta workers have received at least one vaccine dose and Bastian believes the final number will approach 80 percent.
But the chief executive said it would not be fair to current employees to make vaccination a requirement to stay in their job, “if there’s some philosophical issue they have.”
Workers who choose not to get a jab against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, may need to continue getting tested once a week for the illness and will likely be prohibited from working on international flights.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced in late 2020 that mandating vaccinations for employees would not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, though some employees could claim a disability or a religious objection.
For instance, if a worker signals they are unable to get a COVID-19 jab because of a sincerely held religious practice or belief, an employer “must provide a reasonable accommodation for the religious belief, practice, or observance unless it would pose an undue hardship under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,” the commission said.
Most U.S.-based companies have chosen not to mandate vaccines, at least for now. No other airlines have announced vaccine requirements.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told workers in January that he thought it would be “the right thing to do” for the company to require vaccination but the airline has not yet forced workers or customers to show proof of a shot.
Some destinations force travelers to have a vaccine, the airline noted last month.