Recent Changes to COVID-19 Policies – Part 4
Master Executive Council (MEC) and Grievance Committee
In This Update
- No §32 Attendance Policy Points for Workplace Exposure Quarantines
- Grievance No. 36-99-2-241-21 “Violation of §32 Attendance Policy/COVID-19” Withdrawn
- Reports of Bullying and Harassment
No More §32 Attendance Policy Points for Workplace Exposure Quarantines
In Inflight Bulletin 2021-0071 (AAG SSO required), Alaska Airlines management updated Company policy with regard to Section 32 Attendance Policy points assessed for unvaccinated and “prefer not to state” Flight Attendants on a Company-directed COVID-19 workplace exposure quarantine.
A few facts:
- Management began implementing a policy to assess attendance points to such Flight Attendants effective August 30, 2021.
- AFA pushed back and reached an agreement with management by the end of September to retroactively forgive points assessed under that policy change.
- Management once again implemented a policy to assess attendance points to such Flight Attendants effective October 1, 2021.
- AFA preemptively filed Grievance No. 36-99-2-241-21 “Violation of §32 Attendance Policy/COVID-19” on September 30, 2021, in anticipation of the policy change.
- In the early days of October, MEC President Jeff Peterson brought forward concerns to management that assessing attendance points to unvaccinated employees who also have approved accommodations on file is discriminatory and therefore very likely illegal. This is because the accrual of attendance points can lead to discipline and potentially termination, and there is disparate treatment compared to vaccinated employees who do not receive attendance points for the same circumstances. Management was “looking into it.”
- Buried under the heading “COVID-19 Vaccination Points” in the November 1st Bulletin Bundle, management quietly announced a revised policy retroactive to October 1st that rescinds the previous attempts to assess attendance points to such Flight Attendants.
Coincidence? Absolutely not! Not one word from management about AFA’s advocacy here, but we’re going to take credit for this one.
Grievance No. 36-99-2-241-21 “Violation of §32 Attendance Policy/COVID-19” Withdrawn
AFA has subsequently withdrawn Grievance No. 36-99-2-241-21 “Violation of §32 Attendance Policy/COVID-19” because management’s policy change resolved the contractual dispute.
AFA will continue to pursue a remedy for Grievance No. 36-99-2-230-21 “Violation of §16 Sick Leave/On the Job” because of the disparate treatment of unvaccinated and “prefer not to state” Flight Attendants, who are forced to use sick leave for a Company-directed COVID-19 workplace exposure quarantine.
Reports of Bullying and Harassment
Several Flight Attendants have contacted MEC leadership to report that they have felt bullied due to their COVID-19 vaccination status and/or their opinion about the Company’s COVID-19 policies. This goes both ways—we have received emails from both vaccinated and unvaccinated Flight Attendants. In general, the perceived bullying is not specific to an individual but rather to the groups of vaccinated or unvaccinated Flight Attendants. We wanted to take a minute to remind everyone that we are, first and foremost, all Flight Attendants. Our job is tougher than ever right now, and we need to be respectful of each other, both on the line and on social media.
Many Flight Attendants have applied for and received valid religious or medical exemptions to the vaccination mandate. Alaska Airlines management creates, controls, and monitors the process for applying for and approving or denying such exemption requests. This process is mandated by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prevent religious discrimination and by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to prevent discrimination due to a medical condition. No Flight Attendant should be bullied or made uncomfortable because of exercising or not exercising their rights under the law. Since vaccination status in these cases is tied to a legally protected class, these laws prohibit discrimination and pervasive harassment against such individuals.
On the flip side, some vaccinated Flight Attendants report being bullied about voicing their questions, concerns, frustrations, and general opinions about working conditions: specifically, management’s accommodations process and testing protocol. Federal courts have upheld employees’ rights to openly discuss such concerns. For example, employees are legally allowed to state that they believe the accommodations process is too easy to manipulate or that management should place all employees with approved exemptions on unpaid leaves. Similarly, other employees may express support for the existing process.
These are potentially divisive issues with passionate opinions on both sides, but we need to be kind to each other regardless. We may vehemently disagree with someone, but that does not mean a discussion about it—even if legally protected—is welcome or is not hurtful. Life during the pandemic has been extremely rough, but with less than a year to go to contract negotiations, we need to look out for one another now more than ever and to find strength in our solidarity.