Boeing is dropping a policy requiring all U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated, citing a federal district court ruling earlier this month that blocked a key Biden administration immunization mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors.
The aerospace giant's announcement on Friday followed other major companies such as Amtrak and General Electric that suspended their own vaccine mandates as a result of the ongoing legal battles that pit states led by conservative attorneys general against the federal government.
On Dec. 7, a Georgia federal judge sided with seven states - Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia - and several companies in issuing a nationwide stay of President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for companies with government contracts. Following this setback, the White House said the Justice Department will continue to push for the mandate, which was originally scheduled to go into effect in early January 2022.
In an interview with the Seattle Times on Friday after the announcement, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said he still wants "to encourage every one of our workforce to get vaccinated." He pointed to the important role vaccines play in allowing the global air travel industry to recover from the pandemic.
Some 92% of Boeing's U.S.-based employees are fully vaccinated or have received exemptions on medical or religious grounds, according to the Associated Press, citing a company statement.
Earlier this week, Amtrak also announced that it is dropping required vaccinations in light of the federal ruling in Georgia. Unvaccinated employees who don't qualify for an exemption - which the company estimated to be fewer than 500 people - will be allowed to continue working as long as they undergo routine coronavirus testing, the company's CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement.
Many of the Biden administration's key policies aimed at boosting vaccination rates and clamping down on coronavirus transmissions are tied up in the courts, putting companies and workers in the middle of the legal sparring.
In the latest development on the challenges to federal vaccine mandates, a U.S. appeals court in Ohio on Friday reinstated a federal mandate for businesses employing more than 100 workers - a rule that is separate to the mandates that apply to federal contractors or health-care facilities funded by Medicaid or Medicare.
But that reversal is likely to be elevated before the U.S. Supreme Court after Utah Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes said he is seeking "immediate, emergency" relief from the high court, along with "several dozen states," a statement from his office read.