On June 8, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that a federal whistleblower investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that a South Dakota-based helicopter ambulance servicer “retaliated against a mechanic who reported safety concerns and filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”
OSHA oversees the whistleblower provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21) which prohibits companies from retaliating against employees who raise aviation safety concerns.
According to OSHA, a mechanic at Avera Careflight “reported concerns with the safety of a helicopter on July 21, 2022, and continued to discuss safety matters with their supervisor and the manufacturer’s national technical representative over the period of several months.” After being repeatedly reprimanded by their supervisor for raising concerns, OSHA reports that the mechanic then filed a complaint with the FAA before being terminated a few weeks later.
OSHA found that Avera Careflight’s actions violated AIR21 and ordered the company to reinstate the mechanic, pay them more than $30,600 in back wages and $25,000 in damages and to remove negative reports from their personnel record.
“Employees must be able to freely exercise their legal rights regarding workplace safety without fear of retaliation by their employer,” explained OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer S. Rous in Denver. “The outcome of this investigation and the action on the mechanic’s behalf underscores the department’s commitment to protecting workers’ rights.”
In 2021, then-Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh spoke at the National Whistleblower Center’s (NWC) National Whistleblower Day celebration. “I want to be clear: every worker has the right to speak up,” he said. “If they’re mistreated, denied their rights, or have concerns about safety. And when an employer retaliates, it’s not only wrong, it’s illegal.”
This year, NWC is holding an in-person event on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 10th anniversary of National Whistleblower Day. A group of whistleblowers are leading a campaign calling on President Biden to permanently recognize July 30 as National Whistleblower Day.