There is a new requirement for employment with Delta Air Lines. New hires are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The company announced today that the new policy is for the protection of Delta employees and customers, too.
The policy goes into effect on Monday. There will be an exception for those who “qualify for accommodation.” Current employees are not required to be vaccinated and there will not be a company-wide vaccination mandate. Delta says about 60% of its employees are vaccinated and it is in the process of achieving herd immunity within its U.S. workforce. The vaccination requirement for new hires builds on progress in achieving herd immunity.
“Delta people have made great progress to achieve herd immunity within our workforce, with more than 60% of employees already vaccinated,” Delta Air Lines spokesperson Morgan Durrant said in an email to FOX Business. “To help us maintain this trajectory, Delta will require all new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they qualify for an accommodation, effective Monday, May 17.”
“Approximately two out of 10 Americans have been infected by COVID-19 and one out of 1,000 Americans has died. The vaccines are not only extremely effective in preventing illness and symptoms from COVID-19, they’re nearly 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death,” Durrant added. “Vaccines are safe, effective and essential to our future.”
Is it legal for a company to require vaccinations? Yes, at least in this case. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced last year that vaccination mandates are allowed, with accommodations for a disability or religious-related objections.
Other airlines have not made vaccinations mandatory yet. With Delta going first, look for other airlines to join in with the requirement.
American Airlines is giving employees who get vaccinated an extra vacation day in 2020 and $50 in the company’s recognition points.
In January, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby voiced his support for mandatory vaccinations in a video forum with employees but said the company could not “realistically be the only company” to follow through.
As far as masking up during a flight goes, that is still in place for employees and customers alike. Even though yesterday CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gave the go-ahead to go unmasked indoors or outdoors and don’t worry about socially distancing as long as you are fully vaccinated, masks are still required. The TSA still requires face masks on flights and on other modes of public transportation, like buses and trains. CDC also still recommends face masks worn in hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters. The TSA mandate is in effect until September. TSA just extended its mandate on public transportation last week.
Delta is following the TSA mandate while also following CDC guidance as travel begins to open up more fully. Delta expects 80% of its employees to be vaccinated. Chief Executive Ed Bastian strongly encourages all current employees, about 75,000 people, to get vaccinated. He urges them to “understand the risk to not get vaccinated.” If staffers decline to be vaccinated, they may face work restrictions, like working on overseas flights.
Delta is the first airline to require the vaccination but it was the last to return to selling middle seats on its planes. It lifted the restriction on middle seats put in place last April on May 1.