Flight Charter Firm Fires Worker for Raising Aircraft Safety Concerns

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 Web site in order to prepare a complaint she intended to file with the agency 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.

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 www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.

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