Employees challenge Hawaiian Airlines vaccine mandate
Honolulu, HAWAII — A group of Hawaiian Airlines employees has challenged the company’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, saying the company violated federal law by failing to accommodate their religious beliefs and medical conditions.
The lawsuit, filed this week in federal district court in Honolulu, asks the court to order Hawaiian to stop terminating or placing on unpaid leave “any employee who has a religious or medical basis for seeking an accommodation and does not wish to be terminated, placed on unpaid leave, or forced into retirement from the company.”
Hawaiian spokesman Alex DaSilva declined to comment on the specifics of the suit. However, Hawaiian issued a statement saying that approximately 270 of the company’s more than 6,000 employees had opted to take unpaid leave or leave the company rather than getting vaccinated by Wednesday’s deadline to do so.
To date, “96% of our 6,600-plus U.S.-based teammates are immunized, and a limited number of employees received reasonable accommodations,” the company said Friday. “We know that our vaccine requirement has been a challenging topic, but we have a responsibility to our fellow teammates, guests, and communities to keep each other safe – and vaccines are the most effective protection against the virus.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are pilots Robert Anthony Espinosa and Ronald Lum, flight attendants Riki O’Hailpin and Nina Arizumi, aircraft technician Erwin Young, management instructor Puanani Badiang, and customer service agent Sabrina Franks.