Whistleblower Pilot Reinstated

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AirTran has been ordered to reinstate a pilot who federal authorities determined was fired in 2007 in retaliation for reporting mechanical problems with airplanes. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) said the action violated whistleblower legislation and told the airline, which was taken over by Southwest last year, to pay the unidentified pilot more than $1 million in back pay and compensatory damages. "Airline workers must be free to raise safety and security concerns, and companies that diminish those rights through intimidation or retaliation must be held accountable," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Airline safety is of vital importance, not only to the workers, but to the millions of Americans who use our airways."

The pilot said he was suspended from flight duty in August of 2007 pending an investigation into what the airline said was a "spike" in snag reports from the pilot. After a subsequent hearing, the pilot was fired, allegedly for failing to properly answer a question in the 17-minute hearing. "OSHA found that the pilot did not refuse to answer any questions during the hearing, answers to questions were appropriate, and the action taken by the airline was retaliatory," the news release said. OHSA does not identify complainants in whistleblower cases.