The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has called for the reinstatement and repayment of a JetBlue Corporation flight attendant who was terminated by the company for pointing out safety issues on one of the company’s planes. This order will require JetBlue to clear the flight attendant’s personnel file as well as pay $143,783.66 in compensatory damages, attorney fees and back pay. The order also requires the company to make all of their employees fully aware of their whistleblower protections.
In July 2015, one of the passengers aboard a flight service from John F. Kennedy International Airport gave a flight attendant an observation about a potential safety violation. In response to this potential hazard, the flight attendant exited the aircraft in order to ask a supervisor for assistance on how to address the problem.
JetBlue Corporation terminated the flight attendant’s employment for exiting the aircraft and making a phone call from the jetway. The action taken by JetBlue was clearly unwarranted and called for serious repercussions. Also, it set a terrible example for the rest of the company’s employees as to what might happen to a JetBlue employee if he or she were to take the necessary means to ensure flight safety.
Employee and customer safety should be of utmost importance, especially in a company that flies people all over the world, as more dangers exist in this industry than some others.
According to OSHA, the main factor that led to the termination of the JetBlue flight attendant was the whistleblower activity. Whistleblower activity is protected under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21). The act states that employees of air carriers are protected from retaliation for reporting potential aviation safety violations to their employers of the federal government. This was the act that was used against JetBlue in the courtroom, which led to the decision to reinstate and repay the flight attendant.