Pilot Who Blew Whistle on Safety Violations Entitled to Damages, Reinstatement, OSHA Holds

A pilot who was fired by a medical transportation company for refusing to fly a dangerous plane will receive $166,000 in back pay and damages, in addition to reinstatement, under a ruling announced today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

According to the agency’s announcement, the pilot, faced one night with a trip over mountainous terrain in a medical transport helicopter with a faulty emergency locator transmitter, refused to fly the unsafe aircraft and was later terminated in retaliation for doing so.

The company he worked for, Air Methods Corp., is the largest U.S. provider of air medical transportation services, OSHA said.

OSHA investigated the matter under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21)–one of 22 statutes enforced by OSHA to protect the rights of employees who blow the whistle on employer safety violations.

OSHA found that Air Methods fired the pilot in retaliation for his refusal to fly a helicopter with an emergency locator transmitter that was not functioning properly on July 30, 2013. The employee was placed on administrative leave the following day and terminated on Aug. 5, 2013.

“Pilots should never have to choose between the safety of themselves and their passengers, and their job,” said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago. “Whistleblower protections are critical to keeping workplaces safe. Disciplining an employee for following safety procedures is illegal and puts everyone at risk.”

Here’s today’s OSHA announcement in the case.

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