DENVER — A Denver-based United Airlines employee fears he could lose his job even though he's received a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccination.
"They left a big gray area," said Bobby Hallmark, a United aircraft maintenance supervisor for the last 16 years.
"I relocated for the promotion here [in Denver], he said. "It's really rewarding to know that a broken airplane is sitting there and you can fix it and have it take off."
In August when United began announcing vaccine requirements for its employees, Hallmark started his application for a religious exemption. United Airlines refers to its exemptions as "reasonable accommodations".
"We believe god is the one that heals us, not by a man-made vaccine," Hallmark said.
In total, Hallmark said he compiled four letters from faith leaders at his previous church congregations to submit for his exemption application.
On Tuesday, Hallmark received notification from United Airlines that his exemption had been approved.
According to internal United memos obtained by Denver7, employees granted a religious or medical exemption will be placed on unpaid leave beginning Oct. 2.
Memos also stated that those in "operational non-customer facing" roles, such as Hallmark's, would be invited to return once United develops testing and safety protocols.
The fear of losing his job still remains for Hallmark.
"It states down at the bottom [of my exemption] that while I'm on personal leave, they could fill my position. And once everything is ready for them to call people back, if my position is filled, I'm not longer needed," Hallmark said. "I was heartbroken."
Denver7 reached out to United Airlines and a spokesperson said they couldn't verify Hallmark's specific case but did confirm the company policy.
"If I would've known that, I probably would've just resigned from the beginning," Hallmark said.
He and his wife believe United Airlines intentionally withheld details surrounding exemptions.
"They’re already interviewing for his position, let alone everyone else’s position who going to go out on unpaid leave," Hallmark's wife said.
The couple said they also received correspondence by mail from United about Hallmark's vaccination status.
"It puts my vaccination status out to the entire world," Hallmark said. "I don't consider myself an anti-vaxxer. That would be somebody going around telling you not to take it. I'm just saying I have a personal right not to take it, and I have a right to exercise my personal right."
Now, Hallmark is preparing to look for another job.
"It’s still America, it’s still freedom and I still have a right to work here without having to have a vaccine." he said.
Hallmark isn't alone in his frustration with United. The Wall Street Journal reports that six United employees are suing the airline over its vaccine mandate. They argue that United has not made reasonable accommodations for people seeking both religious and medical exemptions.