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OSHA News Release – Region 7
U.S. Department of Labor
Region 7 News Release: OSHA 08-1882-KAN
Jan. 6, 2009
Contact: Jeremy Eggers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered American Airlines Inc. to reimburse two pilots for sick time, interest and any other benefits associated with sick time following an investigation into the pilots' allegations that the company retaliated against them for reporting they were too sick to fly.
The investigation, conducted by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), found that in both cases, the airline erred in rejecting medical documentation provided by the pilots and illegally recouped sick pay already paid to the pilots.
"A policy that forces pilots to make a choice between flying when they are too sick to do so or being retaliated against violates the law," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. "While OSHA is best known for ensuring the safety and health of employees, it is also the federal government's main whistleblower protection agency."
The airline was further ordered to provide whistleblower rights information to its employees. Either party in the case can file an appeal to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA conducted the investigation under the whistleblower provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, known as AIR21. U.S. air carriers are subject to the provisions of AIR21, which protects employees who report violations of federal aviation regulations or engage in other activities protected by the act.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of AIR21 and 16 other laws protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws; trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, 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 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.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.
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