Grounded by Vaccine Exemption: Married United Pilots Feel Betrayed

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Diversity, equity, inclusion; this has been the mantra of United Airlines. United pilots Stephanie and Kyle Atteberry thought the company meant it.

“United has been great to us,” Kyle, 45, told The Epoch Times. He recalls receiving blankets from the company as gifts when their six children were born. “Our expectations were, United would honor our faith.”

Kyle and wife Stephanie, 40, live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Their jobs, flying Boeing 767 and 757 aircraft, routinely took them around the world until Oct. 1, the last day United allowed them to fly.

The couple is not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. They are among the 2,000 United employees who requested reasonable accommodations through medical or religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate. As an accommodation, United placed them on unpaid leave indefinitely. The 2,000 employees are part of Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom, a group legally challenging being placed on unpaid leave.

“They’ve already shown us what a reasonable accommodation looks like, because we’ve been doing it for a year and a half,” Kyle said. “Now they say I’m unsafe to come to work?”

While President Joe Biden announced in September mandatory vaccines for certain workers, United was already signaling in May that it was moving to a mandatory vaccine program.

In May, the company sent employees a letter with an incentive offer: pay for 13 hours of flight time, amounting to $2,600, for those who got vaccinated. And there was a penalty: those who did not get the shot would not be able to fly to as many international destinations. That means less work available for the unvaccinated. From there, the list of countries unvaccinated pilots could not fly to grew, until Germany was the only international place where the Atteberrys could fly.

Now they are both on unpaid leave.

“I feel betrayed by the airline that says it is all about love and respect, and yet here we are being sidelined. And seeing other airlines accommodating their employees—it’s frustrating,” Kyle said.

The stress of working through the situation has loomed over them for months.

“It’s like a decay in my bones—like a shakiness in my soul,” Stephanie told The Epoch Times. “But that has gone away as the Lord has provided an amazing sense of peace for me.”

By Beth Brelje

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Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom

About Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom

Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom Mission: To protect our right to bodily autonomy and faith-based reasonable accommodations for all employees across all industries.

Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom believes it is your right to request a reasonable accommodation, in lieu of forced vaccinations, to maintain your bodily autonomy under the Americans with Disabilities Act or a faith-based reasonable accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

We is a group of airline employees who are legally challenging our employer’s decision to place us on unpaid leave, in essence, terminate us, as a form of reasonable accommodation. We believe the right to worship as we see fit is our choice. 

Additionally, we believe all medical decisions should be made by the individual, in consultation with their doctor, not their employer. 

Please consider helping us as our precedence-setting effort will solidify case law for future generations. We have an opportunity to return our nation to its intended flight path. Please join us.

 “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”

Visit the Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom Website

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