United Airlines announced Thursday that 2,200 employees who received a medical or religious exemption against the COVID-19 vaccine but were put on unpaid leave can finally return to work by March 28.
According to Liberty Counsel, the airline said in a memo that the move was a result of the pandemic "beginning to meaningfully recede."
United's Vice President of Human Resources, Kirk Limacher, noted the reduction in case counts and hospitalizations from the Omicron variant along with the recent easing in mask guidelines from the CDC.
The company stated that it would reassess the situation if a new variant surfaces.
"Of course, if another variant emerges or the COVID trends suddenly reverse course, we will reevaluate the appropriate safety protocols at that time," the memo revealed.
CBN News' Faithwire previously reported that the Chicago-based carrier was the first major U.S. airline to enforce a companywide vaccine mandate in August 2021. All of its staff had to be "fully vaccinated" by September 27, 2021, or face possible termination.
Of the company's 67,000 employees, hundreds were either fired or placed on leave. Others were put in non-customer-facing positions.
Thousands of employees filed a lawsuit against the airline in December after its CEO threatened to fire them for pursuing religious exemptions to the company's vaccine mandate.
A U.S. appeals court last month ordered a new review of a decision not to block United from enforcing the mandate. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to return the issue to a U.S. District judge who had rejected a request to halt the mandate while employees argued their case.
Overall, United fired at least 200 workers and left another 2,000 unpaid for more than a month.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, "No one, including United Airlines employees, should be forced to take the COVID shots against their sincerely held religious beliefs or in light of health concerns. In the name of 'safety,' United has fired hundreds of staff, placed others on unpaid leave or moved them out of their current jobs, but companies cannot be allowed to force people to take these injections."
He contends, "United's decision to impose the shot mandate was foolish, shortsighted and abusive."