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OSHA Orders AirTran Airways to Reinstate and Pay $1 Million in Damages to Whistleblower Pilot

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week ordered AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of Dallas- based Southwest Airlines Co., to reinstate a former pilot who was fired in 2007 after he filed numerous reports of mechanical malfunctions. OSHA found that AirTran violated the whistleblower provision of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), which prohibits retaliation against airline employees who blow the whistle on safety concerns.

On August 23, 2007, AirTran removed the pilot from flight status until the airline could hold an internal hearing regarding the sudden spike in the number of mechanical malfunction reports (PIREPS) that he filed. A week after the hearing, the airline fired the pilot for failing to provide a satisfactory explanation for the number of PIREPS he had filed.

In addition to reinstating the former pilot, AirTran must pay the pilot more than $1 million in back wages plus interest and compensatory damages.

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, stated:

Retaliating against a pilot for reporting mechanical malfunctions is not consistent with a company that values the safety of its workers and customers… 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 rights.

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

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