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OSHA orders Ameriflight to reinstate, compensate whistle-blower pilot


BURBANK, Calif.—An air carrier has been ordered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to reinstate and compensate a whistle-blower pilot whom it said was discharged for raising safety concerns and for contacting the Federal Aviation Administration about those concerns.

In a statement released Wednesday, OSHA said the unidentified Puerto Rico-based pilot worked for Ameriflight PR Inc., a subsidiary of Burbank, Calif.-based Ameriflight L.L.C.

OSHA said that before he was terminated from his job in January 2010, the pilot had repeatedly raised concerns with his superiors about improper fuel calculations for planes flying from the carrier's San Juan, Puerto Rico, base.

He also refused to pilot a flight because of those concerns, voiced his concerns in an email to management and his fellow pilots, and requested a legal opinion from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to OSHA's statement.

The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistle-blower complaints, according to a DOL spokesman.

OSHA concluded after an investigation that the pilot’s activities were protected under the whistle-blower provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, and that his termination was in retaliation for those activities, according to OSHA. It is one of 22 whistle-blower statutes enforced by OSHA, the agency said.

Ameriflight has been ordered to take corrective actions including reinstating the complainant to his former position with all benefits he previously enjoyed, expunging his personnel records of any reference to his protected activities, and paying him $15,350 in compensatory damages, OSHA said.

New York-based OSHA Regional Administrator Robert Kulick said in the statement, “This employee was clearly engaged in activity protected under the law, yet he was still punished professionally and financially for raising safety concerns.

“Air carriers must understand that penalizing employees who raise safety concerns with their supervisors or regulators is unacceptable. We will investigate any such claims of retaliation and discrimination and, where merited, order appropriate relief.”

An Ameriflight spokesman could not be reached for comment.