Jan. 5, 2009
Contact: Leni Fortson
NEWARK, N.J. -- The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered American Airlines Inc. to reimburse a pilot who was retaliated against for reporting that he was too sick to fly. American Airlines rejected medical documentation that the pilot provided in accordance with American's internal policy, and later deducted sick pay that had already been paid from the pilot's paycheck.
The pilot filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleging retaliation under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, the aviation industry whistleblower law known as AIR21. An investigation by OSHA's New York Regional Office found merit to the pilot's complaint. The airline was ordered to abate the violation by reimbursing the pilot for the sick time illegally recouped and to post whistleblower rights posters.
"A policy that forces pilots to make a choice between flying when they are too sick to do so and being retaliated against violates the law," said Robert D. Kulick, regional administrator for OSHA's New York region. "While OSHA is best known for ensuring the safety and health of employees, it is also the federal government's main whistleblower protection agency."
OSHA ordered that American Airlines reimburse the pilot for the sick time, interest and any other benefits associated with the sick time. Either party in the case can file an appeal to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of AIR21 and 16 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transportation, workplace safety and health regulations and consumer product safety laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at: http://www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.
Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
Note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
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