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Mon, Aug 15, 2022

Department of Labor Orders Pilot Reinstated

Aviator Awarded $188,000

In an instance likely to resonate with current and former Part 135 pilots, a federal whistleblower investigation has vindicated an aviator wrongfully fired for refusing to fly under circumstances he deemed dangerous and contrary to federal aviation regulation.

The pilot filed a grievance with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleging his employer, Metro Aviation LLC of Shreveport, Louisiana, had forced him to choose between resigning, retiring, or being involuntarily terminated after he twice refused to operate a helicopter in low-visibility conditions.

Incorporated in 1982 as a helicopter charter, flight training, and maintenance operation, Metro Aviation has evolved into a major Helicopter Air Ambulance (HAA) provider. The company’s fleet of more than 140 aircraft serves hospitals in 25 U.S. states.

OSHA found that Metro Aviation’s actions violated the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century—a federal statute that protects employees who refuse to accept work assignments they reasonably believe would cause them to violate aviation safety regulations. The agency has ordered Metro Aviation to reinstate the pilot, and to pay him more than $171,000 in back wages, and an additional $17,000 in ancillary damages.

OSHA regional administrator Jennifer S. Rous explained: “Employees must freely exercise their legal rights regarding workplace safety with no fear of retaliation by their employer. The outcome of this investigation and the action on the pilot’s behalf underscores the department’s commitment to protecting workers’ rights.”

Asserting his company intends to seek a hearing regarding OSHA’s decision, Metro Aviation co-owner Todd Stanberry stated: “Though we cannot speak at this time about this particular former employee’s pending complaint, we respectfully disagree with OSHA’s administrative determination and intend to seek a hearing before an administrative law judge who will consider all relevant evidence, including the FAA’s determination that a violation of an FAA regulation or standard by Metro Aviation had not been substantiated.”

Note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints. The pronouns he/him/his are used in the traditional, gender-neutral sense

FMI: www.whistleblowers.gov

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