OSHA orders Ameriflight to reinstate, pay P.R.-based pilot in whistleblower case
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Ameriflight, LLC, , a Burbank, Calif.-based air carrier, and its subsidiary, Ameriflight, PR Inc., to reinstate and provide compensation to a Puerto Rico-based pilot who was discharged for raising safety concerns and for contacting the Federal Aviation Administration about those concerns.
The identity of the pilot is being kept under wraps as his complaint is protected under the whistleblower provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, known as AIR21, and his termination was in retaliation for those activities.
“This employee was clearly engaged in activity protected under the law, yet he was still punished professionally and financially for raising safety concerns,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York, whose office has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico. “Air carriers must understand that penalizing employees who raise safety concerns with their supervisors or regulators is unacceptable. We will investigate any such claims of retaliation and discrimination and, where merited, order appropriate relief.”
Before he was terminated from his job in January 2010, the pilot had repeatedly raised concerns with his superiors about improper fuel calculations for planes flying from the carrier’s San Juan base. He also refused to pilot a flight because of those concerns, which he voiced in an email to management and his fellow pilots, and requested a legal opinion from the Federal Aviation Administration.
OSHA launched a probe into the matter in response to the pilot’s complaint, resulting in an extensive order requiring Ameriflight to: reinstate the complainant to his former position as pilot, with all rights, seniority and benefits he would have enjoyed had he never been discharged; clear his personnel records of any reference to his protected activities and the adverse actions taken against him; pay back wages and bonuses, plus interest; pay $15,350 in compensatory damages; refrain from discriminating against him in any manner for any proceedings initiated under AIR21; post a notice to employees of their AIR21 rights; and distribute an AIR21 OSHA whistleblower fact sheet to all employees who received the complainant’s email.
The parties have 30 days to request a hearing with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.