OSHA Orders Employer to Reinstate Whistleblower and Pay More Than $166,000 in Damages

On July 30, 2013, a pilot refused to fly a medical transport helicopter over mountainous terrain due to a faulty emergency locator transmitter. The employee was placed on administrative leave the next day and was eventually terminated on August 5, 2013. This termination was reported to OSHA and an investigation followed.

OSHA found that the pilot’s employer terminated the employee in retaliation for refusing to fly the helicopter. OSHA not only ordered that the pilot be reinstated, but also levied fines totaling $158,000 in back wages, as well as $8,500 in damages. The employer also had to remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel file and provide whistleblower rights information to all employees.

OSHA’s regional administrator, Nick Walters, stated that “[P]ilots should never have to choose between the safety of themselves and their passengers, and their job. Whistleblower protections are critical to keeping workplaces safe. Disciplining an employee for following safety procedure is illegal and puts everyone at risk.”

Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights and employer responsibilities can be found here.

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