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Delta Airlines to charge unvaccinated employees more for insurance

(File photo. A Delta Airbus A321 and other jets are lined up at their gates at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Delta Airlines makes a major change to its insurance policy which will cost unvaccinated employees an extra $2,400 every year.  Some local business analysts say even if it’s legal, it could be a very bad idea.

Delta Airlines unvaccinated employees’ insurance rises 

Starting November 1, Delta employees who aren’t vaccinated from COVID-19 will be required to pay an extra $200 a month for insurance premiums.  Airline officials say this is to offset the rising costs of treating COVID-19.

Is it legal?

This is a tricky question to answer. Employers Council Utah and Arizona Offices Director Glenn Pelster hasn’t had the chance to look over the company’s insurance policies, so he can’t say with 100 percent certainty if this premium increase is legal, or not. 

However, he said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, has decided there are no federal laws that prohibit a company from requiring their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pelster said COVID is considered “a different beast” than other diseases, and the pandemic has created an emergency situation.

“That’s one of the basis that the EEOC looked at that they determined that they were going to employers to require the vaccine,” he explained.

Still, there are certain exemptions a company has to allow since there are legitimate reasons why certain people can’t get the shots.

“You have to make accommodations for disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs if that’s what’s preventing an employee from getting vaccinated,” according to Pelster. 

How this can lead to problems for Delta

Even if an employer is allowed to mandate vaccinations, Pelster believes it’s better for a company to recommend workers get them instead of requiring them. He said the decision to charge workers more for insurance will likely rub a lot of Delta employees the wrong way, and now is not a good time to have angry employees.

Pelster explained, “Right now, we’re in a very tough market for employers to fill positions. There is tons of turnover and everyone is having trouble filling open positions. So, you’re just complicating that factor, as well.”

Plus, he believes many people may see this as inconsistent on the airline’s part since they’re essentially requiring workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine but they aren’t requiring employees to get their annual flu shot. Also, some people may believe since the airline is still employing unvaccinated workers, the company doesn’t actually need them to get the vaccine.

“[Unaffected employees might think] ‘You’re penalizing me for other people’s medical expenses,’” Pelster said. 

The Deseret News reports United and Hawaiian Airlines have mandated vaccinations for their employees, but Southwest and American Airlines will not.