Federal officials have ordered a Massachusetts-based emergency medical air transport company to compensate and reinstate a pilot whistleblower who was fired after reporting concerns about safety violations to federal regulators.
While stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts, in December 2015, the helicopter pilot voiced his apprehension to his employer, Boston MedFlight, about whether a new scheduling policy provided pilots with the required rest time as mandated by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
The following month, the pilot contacted the FAA to register his concerns about the scheduling. Boston MedFlight fired the pilot in March 2016 after he declined two flight assignments because he believed the company had not given him the required amount of rest.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which investigates allegations of wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation across several industries, opened a probe of the pilot’s complaints.
The agency concluded that Boston MedFlight terminated the pilot for reporting safety concerns, a protected activity under the whistleblower provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21).
Under AIR21, an employee of an air carrier or its contractors or subcontractors is protected from retaliation for reporting alleged violations of federal laws related to aviation safety.
OSHA ordered Boston MedFlight to reinstate the whistleblower pilot and pay him $133,616 in back wages and interest plus $100,000 in compensatory damages and attorney fees. Additionally, Boston MedFLight must refrain from retaliating against the pilot and post a workplace notice informing all employees of their AIR21 whistleblower protections.
“This pilot should be commended – not penalized – for raising legitimate safety concerns that can affect him, his co-workers, and the general public,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA Boston-area Regional Administrator.