OSHA Airline Decision a Victory for Safety-Conscious Boston Employees

January 25, 2012

Every Massachusetts worker has the right to bring forth on-the-job safety concerns, without fear of retaliation by an employer hoping to cut corners. The hope is, they can prevent a Boston work-related accident.

That right is especially crucial when the industry is charged with providing a service to the public - one which they have every right to expect will be completed safely.
In the airline industry, if on-the-job safety standards aren't met, people's lives are put at risk.


And that wasn't a risk one AirTran Airways pilot wanted to take.

That's why he stepped forward, repeatedly, to voice safety concerns regarding certain aspects of his plane's mechanics.

Our Boston workers' compensation attorneys applaud him for this.

Unfortunately, when he did so, he was punished by the airline, a subsidiary of Southwest Airlines Co. His employer responded to his reporting of safety concerns by suspending him and followed with a swift judgment for termination.

Why wouldn't an airline want to know if their equipment was unsafe? Why wouldn't AirTran want to prevent potential harm, not only to their employees, but to the public at-large, which trusts the airline to get them and their loved ones safely to their destination?

It's a question that hasn't yet been satisfactorily answered.

But there is good news to emerge from this shameful scenario.

The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the federal agency charged with overseeing complaints of workplace dangers, found the airline's actions were egregious.

So wrong, in fact, that OSHA ordered the airline not only to give the pilot back his job, but to pay $1 million in back pay and compensatory damages, or essentially a fine. Specifically, OSHA found that AirTran violated the federal Whistleblower Protection provision of AIR21. In reporting potential safety concerns to his superiors, the pilot was protected under federal law.

OSHA's investigation found that it started back in August 2007, when the pilot had an increase in the number of mechanical malfunction reports he submitted to his bosses.
The airline responded by taking him off the flight schedule.

Less than a month later, the airline held a 17-minute hearing, and determined the pilot had not adequately answered questions about the increase in his mechanical error reports.

OSHA, however, found that the pilot was never given a proper chance - and that was by the design of the airline, which likely didn't want to be subjected to costly repairs, regardless of the impact on the safety of passengers and crew.

At this point, the airline can file for an appeal with the federal labor department, but in the meantime, the pilot can immediately get back to work.

This is a win for workers everywhere because it underscores that it does pay to make workplace safety a priority, and to ensure your employer is following the industry standard.

Employees who think their employer has retaliated against them for engaging in protected conduct are asked by OSHA to file a complaint with the secretary of labor. That will kick-start an OSHA investigation.

As well, consider the help of an experienced law firm to help guide you through the process.

The Massachusetts workers' compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC are dedicated to fighting for the rights of those who have been injured in a work-related accident the Greater Boston Area or elsewhere throughout Massachusetts. If you have suffered an injury at work and would like to file a disability claim, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-877-617-5333.

Additional Resources:

US Department of Labor's OSHA orders AirTran Airways to reinstate
pilot, pay more than $1 million in back wages and damages
OSHA found airline violated whistleblower protection provision of AIR21

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