Employees in Wisconsin may benefit from understanding more about the settlement reached between Southwest Airlines and a whistleblower mechanic. The employee claims he was disciplined for reporting cracks he discovered in a Boeing 737-700’s fuselage, and filed a lawsuit for whistleblower protections established by the AIR-21 statute. On Jan. 8, a settlement was approved by a Department of Labor Administrative Judge who granted the summary judgment motion filed by the mechanic, and dismissed the airline’s motion.
The employee was represented by the same lawyer representing mechanics claiming that they were pressured by America Airlines to violate safety standards. The inciting incident concerning the Southwest Airline lawsuit occurred during July 2014. According to the judge, while the mechanic performed a standard walk-around inspection, he documented two cracks in the fuselage that ultimately resulted in the Boeing 737 being removed from service for repairs. Afterwards, the employee was called into a meeting with management, where he was reprimanded for purportedly acting beyond the scope of his assigned duties.
In his lawsuit, the mechanic also claims that Southwest Airlines distributed a ‘Letter of Instruction” that was designed to intimidate and dissuade others from reporting similar discoveries of defects by instilling fear of being targeted by disciplinary actions. Southwest Airlines officials maintain that the concern was not that the mechanic reported a safety issue, but that he acted beyond the scope of his job. However, the judge ultimately decreed that the mechanic’s actions were covered by the AIR-21 whistleblower protections.
Employees who are interested in learning more about whistleblower protections may benefit seeking the professional advice of a lawyer. Legal counsel might be able to investigate complaints and help determine whether an employer is in violation of the law for retaliating against an employee. Lawyers may also be effective in explaining the different scenarios in which employees may qualify for whistleblower protections.
Source: Forbes, “Southwest Airlines Settles Whistleblower Suit By Mechanic Disciplined For Reporting Cracks in 737,” John Goglia, Feb. 11, 2015