Master Executive Council (MEC) and Grievance Committee
In This Update
- Forgiveness of §32 Attendance Points Assessed for September COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Quarantines
- Grievance No. 36-99-2-241-21 “Violation of §32 Attendance Policy/COVID-19”
- Management Unwilling to Offer or Negotiate School/Childcare Exposure Absence Mitigations
- Applying for Medical or Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Exemptions to the Vaccination Mandate
- Reasonable Accommodations for Approved Exemptions
- Employees Currently on a Continuous Leave of Absence
Forgiveness of §32 Attendance Policy Points Assessed for September COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Quarantines
AFA and management have reached an agreement to forgive all Section 32 Attendance Policy points that were assessed for any COVID-19 workplace exposure quarantines that began in the month of September. Otherwise, Section 32 Attendance Policy points potentially apply (unless reduced by Quarterly Point Reduction) for any Flight Attendants on a workplace exposure quarantine who disclosed that they were not fully vaccinated or who declined to disclose their vaccination status during the contact tracing intake conversation with management related to that workplace exposure. Management is currently working on implementing the points forgiveness, so Flight Attendants should expect to be notified of an adjustment in the coming weeks.
Grievance No. 36-99-2-241-21 “Violation of §32 Attendance Policy/COVID-19”
Although the one-time agreement above resolves points accrued in the month of September, unvaccinated or “decline to disclose vaccination status” Flight Attendants are potentially accruing points for COVID-19 workplace exposure quarantines going forward beginning October 1st. Consequently, AFA has filed Grievance No. 36-99-2-241-21 “Violation of §32 Attendance Policy/COVID-19”:
The Company’s violation of Collective Bargaining Agreement §32 [Attendance Policy], past practice, and all related sections of the Collective Bargaining Agreement when on or about October 1, 2021, it unilaterally imposed an inequitable non-contractual policy of administering absences for Company-mandated COVID-19 workplace exposure quarantines under the Section 32 Attendance Policy solely to Flight Attendants who are classified as “unvaccinated” pursuant to Company policy, and thereby, potentially subjecting these Flight Attendants to disciplinary action up to and including termination resulting from such attendance points accrual. Vaccinated Flight Attendants do not accrue attendance points under this unilaterally imposed Company policy.
Management Unwilling to Offer or Negotiate School/Childcare Exposure Absence Mitigations
AFA has made several attempts to advocate to management for the need to offer or negotiate school/childcare COVID-19 exposure absence mitigations for Flight Attendants. It is extremely disappointing that management’s position regarding relief not just for FAs but for all employees with school age children is that you’re essentially on your own to manage your schedule and to do your best to not get fired for absences related to school/childcare quarantines. Is this doing the right thing?
Reminder: Flight Attendants may call out Sick Child if their child is ill, and they will not accrue attendance points if the Flight Attendant has sufficient sick leave to cover the entire absence. No attendance points apply for time off to care for a sick child unless the Flight Attendant does not have enough sick leave to cover the absence. See Bulletin #2021-0059 for more information about the Company’s application in these circumstances. Please note aspects of this application remains in dispute via ongoing litigation.
Applying for Medical or Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Exemptions to the Vaccination Mandate
Management is now accepting requests for reasonable accommodation for medical conditions and/or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevents employees from getting vaccinated against COVID-19. An employee may apply for one or both if they qualify. The entire accommodations process (e.g., requests, review, determination, and administration) is directly between employer and employee. For liability reasons, AFA cannot and will not be a party to this process, but we will communicate what we know when possible.
Management is requiring signed and dated medical documentation from a healthcare provider that indicates the medical reason for the exemption request. Applications lacking the required information will be denied.
Sincerely held religious beliefs exemptions
Management does not require separate documentation to substantiate an exemption request for sincerely held religious beliefs, but you may attach additional documentation if you so choose. Management may also ask for additional supporting information.
Reasonable Accommodations for Approved Exemptions
Unpaid leaves or regular COVID-19 testing?
AFA has received numerous inquiries whether the reasonable accommodation will be an unpaid leave or regular COVID-19 testing. Management has indicated a strong desire to keep as many employees working as possible. The reality is the Company would have an extremely challenging time working through a staffing shortage in mid-December and beyond in almost every division. However, there are serious concerns and questions about how regular testing would be administered, and it is unclear if there will be a reliable supply of accessible COVID tests.
Potential seniority violations?
There could conceivably be multiple forms of accommodation both within and between workgroups. Accommodations are usually granted and administered on a case-by-case basis, so this is yet another unprecedented situation courtesy of the pandemic. We are currently working with AFA Legal to determine how much influence the Association might have over the administration of multiple accommodations within the Flight Attendant group if those accommodations potentially create seniority violations.
Appealing and/or disputing a reasonable accommodation request
AFA has also received numerous inquiries how to appeal and/or dispute an approved accommodation request—particularly if the accommodation is an unpaid leave. Any request for appeal or a dispute arising from the accommodation process—regardless of whether an exemption is approved or denied—should be directed back to the employer by the employee. If the parties cannot reach a mutually acceptable resolution, then the employee should file a complaint with the appropriate government agency that owns regulatory oversight for that accommodation. For a complaint related to a medical accommodation, an ADA complaint falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. Complaints related to religious accommodations fall under the authority of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).
Employees Currently on a Continuous Leave of Absence
Management has indicated that employees who are currently on a continuous leave of absence will be provided with adequate time to be vaccinated or request a reasonable accommodation upon their return to work and the associated deadline will be extended accordingly.
Finally, the big question: What happens if a Flight Attendant does not file for or is denied an exemption, and the Flight Attendant declines to be vaccinated? It is still too early to say with certainty because management is still developing the policy, but it seems very likely that management will pursue termination of employment if the employee cannot comply. Despite this possibility, there is no firm direction from management at this time.
AFA will continue to monitor and provide updates as management offers clarification and/or additional information becomes available.