United Airlines employees rail against CEO's handling of vaccine mandate in new letter

United Airlines to fire unvaccinated employees ahead of holiday travel

United Airlines said nearly 600 U.S.-based employees faced termination after failing to comply with the carrier’s vaccination policy. FOX Business’ Grady Trimble with more. 

FIRST ON FOX: A group of United Airlines employees is calling out its own CEO, alleging that he violated civil rights law with the company's coronavirus vaccine mandate. 

Monday's letter asks the United Airlines Holdings Board of Directors to intervene and prevent the "mounting" costs of "needless litigation." CEO Scott Kirby has defended the company's actions as justified to ensure "safety" and argued that it saved lives.

Employees sued the company earlier this year. Although they were denied a request for a preliminary injunction, the judge said the decision was not based on the merits of their claims.

As the letter notes, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman said he was concerned with the company's actions.

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"To be sure, the Court is disturbed by United’s seemingly calloused approach to its employees’ deeply personal concerns with injecting a foreign substance into their bodies … United’s mandate thus reflects an apathy, if not antipathy, for many of its employees’ concerns and a dearth of toleration for those expressing diversity of thought," wrote Pittman. 

The employees, who range from five years to 36 years in tenure, argue that Kirby has failed to make reasonable accommodations for their religious beliefs.

"We were told we were no longer of any value to United Airlines because we merely wanted to exercise our rights codified in the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to request reasonable accommodations in lieu Scott Kirby’s vaccine mandate," the letter reads. 

"In other words, we want to make our own medical choices and pray to the God of our choice, the basis on which our nation was founded and many of us were willing to give our lives to defend. When CEO Kirby mandated the unreasonable accommodation of indefinite unpaid leave as our only option, we stood together against what we believe is unreasonable, discriminatory and retaliatory."

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They also pointed to a video in which Kirby suggests pilots may misrepresent their level of religious devotion. 

"I would encourage any pilot that's decided they all of a sudden – or any employee – that's all of a sudden decided I'm really religious … you're putting your job on the line."

United did not respond to a request for comment on the letter, but pointed FOX Business to Kirby's comments before the Senate Commerce Committee last week, where he said 80% of the religious exemption requests were accepted. He added that over 99% of his employees received the vaccine. 

Kirby also told Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that his company fired six pilots for failure to comply with the mandate and put "about 80" on unpaid leave.

During that hearing, Cruz described United's behavior as "deeply disturbing." 

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Kirby defended the decision, saying his company acted the way it did for "safety."

"We did this for safety," Kirby said. "We believe it saved lives. I think that's my number one obligation – is safety."

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