On March 2, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it ordered a private aviation company to pay an employee “back wages and associated costs” after the employee was retaliated against for reporting safety concerns.
According to the news release, an OSHA investigation found that California-based Pegasus Elite Aviation Inc. retaliated against an employee who “reported safety issues that led to an onsite inspection.” After the whistleblower raised safety concerns, Pegasus Elite Aviation “sent a falsified and negative Pilot Records Improvement Act report to the worker’s new employer, violating the whistleblower provision.” The falsified report then caused the employee to be fired.
Additionally, OSHA found that the aviation company “provided falsified information to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that contributed to the agency’s decision to suspend the former employee’s pilot certificates.”
As a result of the investigation, Pegasus Elite Aviation will “pay more than $898,000 in back wages and associated costs, $50,000 in emotional damages and $10,000 in attorney’s fees,” as ordered by OSHA. The company will also have to “send a letter of correction to the FAA and other employers who received the falsified report, removing the derogatory information.”
“The U.S. Department of Labor will enforce the protections afforded to airline workers who do what’s right and raise their safety concerns,” said OSHA’s Regional Administrator James D. Wulff in the news release. “No matter the industry, every worker has the right to report safety concerns of any kind without fearing retaliation.”
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces 25 whistleblower statutes. However, OSHA has recently come under criticism: an article from Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, highlights the shortcomings of OSHA’s program and how staffing shortages have made it difficult for the agency to properly investigate whistleblower complaints. Read more here.