A United Airlines captain who is on unpaid leave for not complying with her company’s vaccine mandate says she has been locked out of her 401(k) and is prohibited from finding another job.
"I am out on unpaid leave. I am prohibited from getting another job. I'm prohibited from accessing my 401(k). I have no medical benefits, and I'm leading the charge in this fight, so my days are consumed," United pilot Sherry Walker, co-founder of Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom, told the Daily Signal while attending the "Defeat the Mandates" march in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
Walker told Fox Digital on Monday that she is considered an "active employee" after being put on unpaid leave for not complying with the airline’s vaccine mandate in November.
"That means that they can call us back with two weeks' notice at any given time, they can just grab us and pull us back. But because we're active, we haven't had a qualified lifestyle change. So Schwab, which owns our 401(k) accounts, refuses to let anyone access them," Walker told Fox.
Walker added that employees in similar shoes have been prohibited from finding other jobs because United has cracked down on non-competes.
"In this case, they have said that no, no outside employment. In fact, you must go through ethics and compliance, and it can't be a company that we could have … a non-compete" with.
But if Walker were to get another job with an airline, she can’t make lateral moves as a captain because the airline industry has a seniority-based system.
"You start over at the bottom. I can't be a captain at any other airline in this country. I go back from my six-figure salary, back down to starting probationary pay … pulling gear for some captain," she said.
United Airlines told Fox News Digital on Monday that there are "non-customer facing roles" for employees who do not comply with the mandate, adding such employees "can apply and continue working until it is safe for them to … return to their current positions."
United Airlines added that "we have nothing further to share on this" when pressed for details concerning employees being locked out of accessing their 401(k) plans.
A Schwab spokesman said he was unaware of any plan participants are unable to access and directed them to call Schwab Retirement Plan Services.
"Schwab Retirement Plan Services administers workplace retirement plans at the direction and discretion of the employers who select us, and according to the rules of each retirement plan," the spokesman said, adding the company doesn't disclose specific information on plans and clients.
Walker, who has been flying since she was 18 and has worked in the industry since 1998, is spearheading the fight against the vaccine mandates among airline employees, including with a legal battle.
"While we believe our employer has the right to have a mandate, they are obligated under Title VII to give us reasonable accommodations. And right now we're fighting in the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans to wait a judgment to see if we will succeed in a preliminary injunction or if we will continue on the unreasonable accommodation of indefinite unpaid leave," she told the Daily Signal on Sunday.
Walker said her personal decision to not get the vaccine came down to her faith, but added that if Americans don’t draw the line with vaccines, freedom over personal healthcare choices could be further diminished in the future.
"Now it's just a shot in the arm," Walker said, giving a hypothetical of what could happen in a few years if she’s potentially diagnosed with a disease such as breast cancer.
"Five or six years if I get breast cancer, right? And my doctor says Sherry, [there’s cancer], it might take a little while with some radiation, but we'll get you back," she said. "Okay, what happens then when my employer says, ‘no, no, we need you flying as fast as possible. Go get a double mastectomy and be back to work in six weeks.’"
She said if she refused such a request, her employer could fire back that "you gave in your bodily autonomy years ago. You don't have to say so anymore."