HONOLULU (KHON2) — COVID vaccine mandates are now behind us, but lawsuits are still pending from workers who lost their jobs because they refused to get vaccinated.
Flight attendant Shanah Brody worked for Hawaiian Airlines for almost 22 years.
Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You
Brody said she was one of hundreds of employees who asked for a religious or medical exemption from the COVID vaccine and they were all denied.
Instead, she said they were told to fill out a form saying they agree to be put on unpaid leave for up to a year, or they would be fired.
She said even if they agree to go on unpaid leave, when they come back to work they would lose their seniority. So she declined to fill out the form.
“It’s been painful not to feel like a part of the Hawaiian family that I’ve been part of for so many years and the division that it has caused,” said Brody.
Hawaiian Airlines announced in September that it was dropping the COVID vaccine mandate and will be bringing back unvaccinated workers.
But attorney Michael Green said the company only rehired those who agreed to go on unpaid leave.
“To do this to people who spent their lives there and then treat them like they’re just a throwaway issue that they’re not even considered. It’s unbelievable to me,” said Green.
Green has filed a lawsuit against the airline. He said it’s illegal for the airline to deny the workers rights to get religious or medical exemptions.
Green further stated the airline should have also rehired workers according to their seniority.
“There’s damages on the religious exemption, but I think when you start talking about what they did to them by now bringing back junior people to take their place and their careers are over, that may lend itself to punitive damages,” said Green.
“Just feeling like everything that I’ve put into the company doesn’t matter,” said Brody. “I lost my livelihood, it’s been very painful.”
Green also represented workers who filed a lawsuit against the City over the vaccine mandate.
But he said that has been dropped because exemptions were allowed and the employees have returned to work.
Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8
KHON2 News has reached out to Hawaiian Airlines and a spokesman stated the company does not comment on litigation.