Frequently Asked Questions about Employer-mandated COVID Vaccinations

Updated on November 5, 2021

Both the Federal Contractor and the OSHA COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates have been announced with a deadline of January 4, 2022 to be fully immunized against COVID-19. The two mandates vary slightly. Every airline will have to comply with one of these and/or mandates from other countries. Our union’s role is to ensure compliance with our contracts and consistent, transparent and non-discriminatory standards for implementation.

Your AFA leadership is engaging with your airline on how this affects Flight Attendants. Stay closely tuned to your AFA Master Executive Council (MEC) and local union communications on this issue. Sign up here if you aren't already

Additionally, the Canadian Government will require U.S. crewmembers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of November 2021.

OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard

Who is affected by the government rule?

The new rule covers all private-sector business with at least 100 employees, including airlines. The Biden administration on Thursday said about 84 million workers will be impacted by the requirements — roughly two-thirds of the nation's private-sector labor force.

The Biden administration has created separate vaccine requirements for federal workers and federal contractors. 

What are the deadlines for the rule?

  • By December 5, employers must comply with most requirements of the new rule, such as ensuring that unvaccinated workers wear a mask at their workplace. Employers must also choose whether they will require vaccinations or weekly testing by this date.
  • By January 4, employers must ensure workers are either vaccinated or begin testing unvaccinated employees every week.
  • Also by January 4, workers who are required to be vaccinated must be fully vaccinated.

Can I get a religious or medical exemption?

Yes, according to OSHA. "Some employees will be requesting exemptions for medical accommodations. There may be some with medical contra-indications" while others may have religious beliefs that prompt them to ask for a exemption, Frederick of OSHA said. "The [mandate] does account for that."

How will employers check vaccinations?

Generally, employees can provide their COVID-19 vaccination card to their employer.In cases where vaccinated employees can't provide a vaccination card, the regulatory agency will "provide an attestation process" for workers to state that they've been vaccinated.

Who will pay for weekly testing for the unvaccinated?

Employers aren't required by OSHA to pay for weekly COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated workers, which means that some employees may end up on the hook for test costs.

However, OSHA noted that some businesses may be required to pay for weekly tests due to local or state laws, as well as through collective bargaining agreements.

How will OSHA check on compliance?

Businesses must maintain records on workers' vaccination statuses. But for workplaces where employees aren't required to be vaccinated, workers will need to get weekly tests and wear masks.

What are the penalties for businesses that don't comply?

Penalties for noncompliance can be steep. OSHA will fine businesses almost $14,000 for each employee who fails to comply with the rule. But businesses that are in "willful violation" of the requirements will face additional fines of about $136,000.

Frequently Asked Questions about Employer-mandated COVID Vaccinations

Is it against federal law for my employer to require me to get a COVID vaccination?

No, it is not a violation of federal law for your employer to require you be vaccinated against COVID. The EEOC is the federal agency that has jurisdiction over this question. It announced in updated guidance issued on May 28, 2021 that employers may require an employee to be vaccinated in order to work for the employer.

Are there any exceptions to this ability of an employer to require employee vaccinations?

The only exceptions to an employer-mandated vaccination program are when an employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs do not allow for vaccinations and when an employee has a valid claim for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is not clear yet what reasonable accommodations an employer might make for a Flight Attendant making a claim under the ADA.

Does HIPAA apply to employer-mandated vaccination requirements?

No, HIPAA does not cover mandatory vaccination programs. HIPAA applies to “Covered Entities.” An employer is NOT a Covered Entity under HIPAA. Covered Entities include group health plans, service providers, and healthcare clearing houses.

I’ve heard that the “Nuremberg Code” may protect me from vaccination mandates. Is this true?

No, this claim is false. The Nuremberg Code is a set of ethical principles that were developed in 1947 to address Nazi atrocities committed during World War II. The Code provides guidelines about medical experimentation forced on people against their will. The ethical principles adopted require the informed consent of people subject to experimentation or clinical trials. For example, those people volunteering to participate in the several large clinical trials held for COVID vaccines prior to their manufacturers’ applications for FDA approval were required to sign forms indicting their consent to the terms and conditions of the trial.

The Code does not apply to policy decisions about the utility of requiring vaccinations in order to maintain employment. While choice of employment provides individual options as opposed to the circumstances that led to creation of the Code, the Code’s ethical principles also do not have the force of law nor is the Code enforceable against individual parties. In terms of the COVID vaccines, on August 23, 2021 the FDA announced the full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

Will AFA represent me if I seek a vaccine exemption from my airline?

Yes, of course. If the process to seek an allowed exemption leads to any negative effect on employment the Union will represent those Flight Attendants' rights under the contract and law. The vaccination exemption process sought by some airline employees relates to individual private circumstances, whether religious or medical. Each airline requiring vaccines will have a process for seeking an exemption and it is important to follow the guidelines set at each airline.

Why are airlines requiring vaccines?

The pandemic has been devastating around the world, with millions of lives lost, millions more suffering long term medical effects, and individuals, families, communities, small and large businesses and the worldwide economy has suffered as a result of the pandemic too. The vaccines are proving high efficacy rates for protecting against serious illness, death, hospitalization, and lower rates of transmission. However, the vaccines only work to help end the pandemic when nearly everyone is vaccinated and the virus spread and mutation is significantly slowed in a fully vaccinated population. Virus mutation can potentially cause new strains that are resistant to current vaccines, causing the pandemic to not only continue but create new threats as well. The pandemic will continue to rage until vaccination rates are significantly increased. In transportation, it is critically important that we maintain public trust and do everything in our power to stop the spread of the virus. We have already lost too many people in aviation, and together we can save lives and restore the freedom we enjoy in transportation to visit communities around the world. Learn more at


News Desk

Latest News

See All »

Media Releases

See All »

Latest Tweets

Union Plus Benefits

union-plus.jpgUnion Plus Benefits for AFA-CWA Members!
AFA-CWA members are automatically eligible for the following Union Plus benefits and discounts.

More benefits »