Judge rules in favor of Hawaiian Airlines vaccine policy

HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. judge on Wednesday denied an attempt by seven employees to block Hawaiian Airlines’ policy requiring workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face termination.

The airline required U.S.-based employees to receive full doses of a vaccine by Nov. 1, while allowing employees to request accommodations based on disabilities or religious beliefs.

Seven employees filed a lawsuit in January accusing the airline of discrimination and retaliation. They asked a judge to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the airline from enforcing the vaccine policy or requiring compliance as a term of employment.

U.S. District Judge Jill Otake in Honolulu denied the request Wednesday, saying that in other cases involving vaccine policies, “courts have consistently found that a loss of employment is not irreparable harm.”

A small percentage of employees made a choice not to get vaccinated, Otake said, noting that as of Jan. 1, 95% of the airline’s employees were vaccinated.

The plaintiffs who cited religious and medical reasons for not getting vaccinated include a flight attendant who believes her body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit and that God has directed her not to take the vaccine.”

The airline denied their requests for exemptions.

Airline spokesperson Alex Da Silva declined to comment.

“We are disappointed in the ruling since federal civil rights law exists to prevent employees from having to choose between their faith or health and their job,” said John Sullivan, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Airlines fall under an order from President Joe Biden’s administration that required federal contractors to get their workers vaccinated.

That requirement was not part of a separate mandate on big businesses recently blocked by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and later withdrawn by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But it has been tied up separately since early December, when a federal district judge in Georgia issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the mandate.