Aviation Whistleblower Nets Big OSHA Victory
Aviation whistleblowers continue to be able to count on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at the Department of Labor (DOL) to have their back when employers retaliate against them for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing. On February 23, 2016, OSHA announced that it had ordered Alaska-based Bald Mountain Air Services to pay a whistleblower over three years of back wages and $100,000 in compensatory damages, and ordered the company to reinstate the employee and expunge any reference to the incident from his employment records.
According to OSHA, Bald Mountain was responsible for providing medevac services to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage. The pilot, who had over 35 years of aviation experience, repeatedly raised safety concerns ranging from missed drug tests for pilots to poor recordkeeping. The pilot was subsequently “suspended, then fired and ostracized among the close-knit industry” because of those reports. OSHA determined that these actions violated the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), which contains provisions prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers in the aviation industry.
OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Galen Blanton issued a statement accompanying the press release that very simply states the main takeaway of this news: “Voicing safety concerns at work should never cost someone their job.” Mr. Blanton added, “This employee should be hired back, compensated and treated fairly from here on out.”