Workers who avoided vaccination by claiming a medical or religious exemption will be able to return starting March 28.
United Airlines is bringing back employees who were placed on unpaid leave last year because they refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The airline told employees in a memo Thursday that workers who avoided vaccination citing a medical or religious exemption will be able to return starting March 28.
The company’s vice president of human relations, Kirk Limacher, said in the memo that United was taking the step because it expects coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths to continue to decline in the coming weeks.
New reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States have dropped dramatically since mid-January, when the highly contagious Omicron variant began to decline.
“Of course, if another variant emerges or if COVID trends suddenly change course, we will reassess appropriate safety protocols at that time,” Limacher said.
Last year, CEO Scott Kirby pushed through the mandate as a critical safety measure, and United became one of the most visible US corporations to impose a vaccination requirement. The company said about 97 percent of its 67,000 US workers received the shots, and only about 200 were laid off.
More than 2,000 workers claimed a medical or religious exemption from vaccination. They were not fired, but were placed on unpaid leave, with several suing the Chicago-based company.
A United spokeswoman said Thursday that the company still requires new hires to get vaccinated.
More than 950,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, but the rates of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen in the past two months. Through Monday, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the US fell 52 percent to around 42,000 over the previous two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The average exceeded 800,000 daily cases in mid-January.