Boeing announces decision on vax mandate for workers after getting 11K exemption requests

Aircraft manufacturing behemoth Boeing has announced it is suspending its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all U.S.-based employees, as federal lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s mandate for private-sector companies proceed.

For Boeing, though, the Friday announcement also stemmed from “weeks of uncertainty as thousands sought exemptions,” the New York Post reported.

The internal announcement said that the company’s decision stems from a review of a U.S. District Court ruling earlier in December that blocked the administration’s enforcement of a vaccine requirement for federal contractors. In addition to Boeing, other large contractors including Spirit Aerosystems, Amtrak, and General Electric have also suspended the mandate for their workers.

Boeing’s announcement came as a U.S. appeals court on Friday reinstated the nationwide vaccine-or-testing requirement for businesses with more than 100 employees, a mandate that covers some 80 million workers.

The 6th U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati lifted an injunction put in place by a lower federal court in November barring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from enforcing the rule come January 4.

The mandate “authorizes OSHA to act on its charge ‘to assure safe and healthful working conditions for the nation’s work force and to preserve the nation’s human resources’,” said the opinion from the three-judge panel.

“The administration’s request comes a day after the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a nationwide ban on the mandate,” Reuters added. “The court instead allowed the mandate to remain blocked in 14 states that had collectively sued in federal court in Louisiana.”

The appeals ruling changed an earlier decision by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty whose order halting the mandate applied nationwide.

As for Boeing, the company was dealing with vaccine exemption requests based on medical and religious grounds from more than 11,000 workers, or about 9 percent of its entire U.S. workforce — which was many times higher than corporate executives had first expected.

That said, the company noted that around 92 percent of its U.S.-based workforce reports being fully vaccinated, though a significant number of factory workers and engineers would have been lost had the company not blocked the mandate, Reuters noted.

“The success of Boeing’s vaccination requirement to date positions the company well to comply with the federal executive order should it be reinstated in the future,” the internal memo said.

A Boeing spokesperson confirmed the internal communique, adding that the planemaker is still “committed to maintaining a safe working environment for our employees, and advancing the health and safety of our global workforce.”

The company issues its suspension to be in line with the federal court’s ruling blocking the mandate from applying to government contractors, the spokesperson added.

Separately, the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “has declined to disturb a lower court order blocking the mandate in 10 other states,” Reuters reported.

Jon Dougherty


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