Boeing on Friday announced that it had suspended its requirement for U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In an internal post to employees, provided to Defense News, Boeing said it made the decision after reviewing several recent developments that dealt blows to the government’s vaccine mandate effort for federal contractors.
A U.S. district court in Georgia on Dec. 7 issued a preliminary injunction that would prevent the vaccine mandate for contractors required in executive order 14042 from taking effect. This followed another injunction issued by a federal court in Kentucky Nov. 30, halting a national vaccine mandate for health care workers.
On Dec. 9, the Defense Department issued a memo suspending the enforcement of the mandate to comply with both court orders until further notice.
Boeing also cited state laws that have restricted how far employers can go in some areas when trying to require employees to get vaccinated.
Boeing said it adopted its U.S. requirement to comply with the federal government’s order. More than 92% of Boeing’s U.S.-based employees have registered as being vaccinated, or have received a religious or medical accommodation, the company said in its message to employees. Nearly all vaccinated Boeing employees have also uploaded proof of vaccination into the company’s internal Worklife personnel system, the company said.
But Boeing also left the door open to following the vaccine mandate once again if it returns.
“The success of Boeing’s vaccination requirement to date positions the company well to comply with the federal executive order should it be reinstated in the future,” Boeing said.
Laura Cain, chief medical officer for Boeing, said in the internal post that the company is still encouraging employees to receive the vaccine, even if it is no longer requiring it.
“As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to prioritize health, safety and care for our teammates,” Cain said. “According to the CDC, the vaccines are safe, effective and our best tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I want to strongly encourage our employees to get vaccinated or get a booster if they have not done so to help protect their teammates, families and communities.”
Huntington Ingalls Industries last month became the first major defense contractor to push back against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate. In a Nov. 16 memo, Huntington Ingalls Chief Executive Mike Petters said the mandate was not a condition of the company’s shipbuilding contracts.
Petters said Huntington would not enforce vaccination deadlines for its employees or force out those who declined the shots, except when vaccinations are required by specific contracts.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.