ATLANTA (CBS46) -- Delta Air Lines took off in a different direction when it comes to protecting its workforce against COVID-19. Atlanta’s largest employer announced it will require new employees to be vaccinated if they want to join the team.

“I am not going to mandate or force people if they have some specific reason why they don't want to get vaccinated but I am going to strongly encourage them and make sure they know the risk of not getting vaccinated,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said.

Delta's CEO said that he would "strongly encourage" the Air Lines existing 75,000 employees to get the vaccine. Those who opt out of being vaccinated might face restrictions, such as not being able to work international flights.

Atlanta employment attorney Ed Buckley said employers have the right to mandate that their employees get vaccinated.

“I think we’ll probably see a few cases where people are alleging discrimination,” Buckley said.

But there are two exemptions. For those with legitimate health and religious reasons.

“Employees who have a religious objection, a legitimate heartfelt religious objection to being vaccinated may say so and then the employer has a duty to look at whether or not it can reasonably accommodate the religious objection,” Buckley said.

More than 60% of the delta's current employees have had at least one shot and it about 80% of employees will be fully vaccinated. Still, those who object must have a good reason.

“Just being an anti-vaxer is not going to cut it. If it’s not religion and it’s not medical, you’ve got to do it,” Buckley said.

Copyright 2021 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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