The subsidiary of a Dallas-based national airline has been ordered by OSHA to reinstate a former pilot who was fired after reporting numerous mechanical concerns. 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 that the termination was an act of retaliation in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21).
The pilot's complaint alleged that the airline removed him from flight status pending an investigative hearing regarding a sudden spike in the pilot's mechanical malfunction reports. After an internal hearing that lasted 17 minutes, the airline discharged the pilot, claiming that he did not satisfactorily answer a question regarding the reported spike. OSHA instead found that the pilot had answered all questions during the hearing, his answers were appropriate, and the action taken by the airline was retaliatory.
Either party to the case can file an appeal with the U.S. Labor Dept's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but an appeal will not suspend 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.