OSHA has ordered Southern Air Inc., a cargo airline headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., to pay more than $400,000 in lost wages, back pay, damages, and legal fees to compensate a flight crew member who was terminated for raising safety concerns protected under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21).
The employee was terminated in April 2008 after twice complaining to management about inadequate rest breaks and being required to work hours in excess of those allowed under FAA rules. The employee then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA’s Boston Regional Office.
After finding merit to the complaint, OSH issued a Notice of Secretary’s Findings and Preliminary Order directing Southern Air to pay the complainant $300,000 for loss of career wages, $135,240 in compensatory damages, $7,394.65 in attorney’s fees and back pay of $1,485 per week, plus interest, from April 7, 2008, through the date of payment. The company was also ordered to post the FAA whistleblower poster and an OSHA notice to employees about their whistleblower rights.
“Employees have a strong and clear right to raise legitimate safety and health concerns about their working conditions without fear of termination or reprisal,” says OSHA New England Regional Administrator Marthe Kent. “We will pursue the appropriate legal remedies whenever we find that workers have been denied this vital safeguard.”
In addition to AIR21, OSHA administers the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other statutes protecting employees who report violations of securities, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transportation and consumer product safety laws. For detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, go to: http://www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.