Airline Whistleblower Must Be Reinstated, Courts Says

A petition to review a U.S. Department of Labor order mandating reinstatement and back pay for a pilot, who was fired from a Puerto-Rico based airline after he raised safety concerns, has been denied.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit Boston, upheld findings made by the Labor Department in which it found Vieques Air Link Inc. (VAL) violated the whistleblower provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR) when the pilot was suspended and later fired after he brought up safety concerns to his employer and the Federal Aviation Administration in March 2002.

"It is vital that employees be able to raise safety concerns to their employers and appropriate public safety agencies without fear of retaliation," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator in New York, whose office investigated the complaint. "This decision reaffirms both the right of employees to seek safe working conditions and the Labor Department's commitment to take the necessary steps to protect that right."

After the pilot filed a complaint to OSHA, the agency investigated the complaint. After finding that the complaint had merit, an administrative law judge issued a concurring decision to order the airline to reinstate the pilot and pay him a total of $72,315, plus interest, in back wages, compensatory damages and medical and legal fees. Vieques Air Link then petitioned the court of appeals to overturn the decision.

A call made to Vieques Air Link for comment was not immediately returned.

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