The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered the reinstatement of a pilot who alleged he was fired over his unwillingness to participate in fraudulent activity on the job and for reporting his concerns to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The pilot’s employer, Northern Illinois Flight Center, was also ordered to compensate the pilot more than $500,000 in back pay, benefits, and damages.
According to OSHA, “the whistleblower, a pilot from Illinois, was dismissed after contacting the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss violations of the pilot certification process.”
The pilot alleges his employer asked him to falsify an FAA pilot certification form for a training flight he performed with another pilot. The pilot alleged that not all of the required elements were completed during the training flight he conducted on Feb. 16, 2009, so he could not certify the form. The pilot also alleges that his supervisors at the Northern Illinois Flight Center tried to coerce him into signing a backdated and incorrect form.
The pilot later told his supervisors that he would contact the FAA directly to get clarification on the issue. On April 7, 2009, a few days after he communicated his concerns to the FAA, the pilot was fired with no reason given for his termination. OSHA investigators verified the pilot’s allegations and determined that he would not have lost his job if he hadn’t sought counsel from the FAA in properly completing the FAA pilot certification process and forms.
“Firing pilots for reporting inaccurate procedures to the FAA endangers other pilots, their passengers and the public at large,” said OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels. “The Labor Department has a responsibility to protect all employees, including those in the aviation industry, from retaliation for raising safety concerns and exercising these basic worker rights.”
OSHA said the pilot was bound to report his concerns to the FAA and in doing so, was protected by whistleblower protection provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, better known as AIR21.
OSHA said the Northern Illinois Flight Center had 30 days from receipt of its findings to appeal the proposed fines.