Pilot fired after he reported mechanical problems

Most Wisconsin jetsetters would find it hard to believe that a pilot could be fired for ensuring the safety of passengers aboard flights. Nevertheless, a recent story discusses the firing of an employee who was concerned about flight-related mechanical equipment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently ordered AirTran Airways, a Southwest Airlines subsidiary, to reinstate a pilot who was fired after he reported a series of safety concerns. The agency conducted an investigation and found that the airline violated whistle-blower protection laws when it terminated the employee in 2007. OSHA noted that firing the pilot in retaliation for reporting mechanical malfunctions was not acceptable. Such malfunctions compromise the safety of AirTran’s workers and customers.

An employee should not be let go for complying with the law. If an employee reports potentially wrongful or illegal conduct on the part of an employer and is terminated, this usually creates a case against the employer. Specifically, Wisconsin state law offers protection for workers who are required to report any emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or other care-related violations.

In this case, the pilot was reporting various mechanical violations, which would inevitably affect the safe transportation of passengers. In these types of cases, the terminated employee should be compensated for losses due to the retaliatory discharge. In this particular story, OSHA is requiring the airline to pay over $1 million to the employee in back wages, plus interest and compensatory damages.

If you have been terminated because you reported your employer’s wrongful or illegal conduct, you may want to speak to an attorney about your rights and remedies.

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Alan Olson writes this web-log to provide helpful information regarding employment law cases. He practices employment law throughout the United States from his offices in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Attorney Olson may be contacted at [email protected] with questions about the information posted here or for advice on specific disability benefit claims.

Source: Reuters, “Agency orders AirTran pilot reinstated with back pay,” David Bailey, Jan. 17, 2012

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