Region 9 News Release: 08-465-SAN (SF-53)
April 24, 2008
Contact: Roger Gayman
U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA orders Scottsdale, Ariz., flight charter company to pay employee who raised safety concerns nearly $95,000
SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered West Jet Aircraft of Scottsdale, Ariz., to pay $94,900 in back wages, compensatory damages, and medical and legal fees to a former employee who was wrongfully terminated after she raised aircraft safety concerns.
The charter coordinator was terminated after accessing the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Web site in order to prepare a complaint she intended to file with the FAA against West Jet. During previous months, the employee had repeatedly informed West Jet of suspected violations of federal aviation regulations, including not performing a grounding inspection on an aircraft that landed overweight after being illegally topped off with fuel, attempting to schedule an unqualified pilot-in-command, and ordering an unqualified pilot to perform a test flight while carrying passengers.
A whistleblower investigation by OSHA found that West Jet terminated the employee in retaliation for her preparing to share her air carrier safety concerns with the FAA, and for her repeated aviation safety complaints to management. OSHA's investigation found merit to the employee's allegation that she had been discharged in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21). The U.S. Labor Department does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
"It is vital that employees be able to raise safety concerns to their employers and appropriate public safety agencies without fear of retaliation," said Richard S. Terrill, OSHA's acting regional administrator in San Francisco, whose office investigated the complaint. "This order reaffirms both the right of employees to raise air carrier safety concerns and the Labor Department's commitment to take the necessary steps to protect that right."
OSHA administers the whistleblowing provisions of 16 statutes, including AIR21, designed to protect employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental and securities laws. Information about employees' rights and employers' responsibilities under the whistleblower provisions of those laws may be found on OSHA's Web site at http://www.whistleblowers.gov/index.html.
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to promote the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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