OSHA Orders Airtran
Airways To Reinstate Pilot Under The Whistleblower Act
By Daniel Baxter
January 18, 2012 - The U.S. Department of Labor's
Occupational Safety and Health Administration has
ordered AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of Dallas,
Texas-based Southwest Airlines Co., to reinstate a
former pilot who was fired after reporting numerous
The agency also has ordered that the pilot be paid more
than $1 million in back wages plus interest and
compensatory damages. An investigation by OSHA's
Whistleblower Protection Program found reasonable cause
to believe that the termination was an act of
retaliation in violation of the whistleblower provision
of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform
Act for the 21st Century, known as AIR21.
"Airline workers must be free to raise safety and security concerns, and companies that diminish those rights through intimidation or retaliation must be held accountable," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Airline safety is of vital importance, not only to the workers, but to the millions of Americans who use our airways."
pilot's complaint alleged that the airline removed him from
flight status on Aug. 23, 2007, pending an investigative hearing
regarding a sudden spike in the pilot's mechanical malfunction
reports, or PIREPS. The airline held an internal investigative
hearing on Sept. 6, 2007, that lasted 17 minutes.
later, the airline terminated the pilot's employment, claiming
that he did not satisfactorily answer a question regarding the
spike in reports. OSHA found that the pilot did not refuse to
answer any questions during the hearing, answers to questions
were appropriate, and the action taken by the airline was
"Retaliating against a pilot for reporting mechanical
malfunctions is not consistent with a company that values the
safety of its workers and customers," added Michaels.
"Whistleblower laws are designed to protect workers' rights to
speak out when they have safety concerns, and the Labor
Department will vigilantly protect and defend those fundamental
party to the case can file an appeal with the Labor Department's
Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such an appeal does not
stay the preliminary reinstatement order.
|OSHA enforces the whistleblower provision of AIR21, as well as 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, workplace health and safety, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, consumer product and food safety laws.|
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