DuraLabel's Weekly Safety News

Blog Author Angelique Sanders

Weekly safety news. Stay in touch with regulations from OSHA, NFPA, and other safety codes. Find out about other companies' best and worst practices. We scour the internet to provide you with helpful training resources and the latest safety information.

Monday, November 12, 2012

OSHA Whistleblower Actions and Settlements - One Employer Responds

An investigation by OSHA has found that Northern Illinois Flight Center violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, known as AIR21, by illegally terminating an employee. The whistleblower, a pilot from Illinois, was dismissed after contacting the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss violations of the pilot certification process. As a result, OSHA has ordered the company to immediately reinstate the employee and pay more than $500,000 in back wages, benefits and damages.

The pilot alleges that he was asked to falsify an FAA Form 61.55 pilot certification for a training flight he performed with another pilot. He maintained that all required elements were not completed during the training flight conducted Feb. 16, 2009, so he could not certify the form. He also alleges that, on March 23, Northern Illinois Flight Center supervisors attempted to coerce him into signing a backdated and incorrect form. During a subsequent conversation, the pilot informed his supervisors that he wanted to contact the FAA directly to get clarification on the issue, and between March 25 and 27, the pilot contacted the FAA Flight Standards District. The pilot was terminated April 7, with no reason stated. The investigation, conducted by OSHA's Chicago office, upheld the pilot's allegations and found that he would not have been terminated if he had not requested to meet with the FAA for the purpose of discussing the pilot certification process and forms.

Northern Illinois Flight Center is based in Lake in the Hills and employs pilots to fly aircraft for the transportation of passengers and property.

OSHA conducted the investigation under the whistleblower provisions of AIR21, which protects employees who report alleged violations of any order, regulation, or standard of the FAA or any other provision of federal law relating to air carrier safety under this subtitle or any other law of the United States, or who engage in other protected activities.

The following is from a Department of Labor press release:

The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment requiring a Connecticut employer to pay back wages and take corrective action on behalf of two workers who the department claims were fired in retaliation for filing complaints alleging unsafe or unhealthful conditions.

The department's regional Office of the Solicitor simultaneously filed complaints and consent judgments in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on behalf of a former employee of Parker Medical, an East Bridgewater manufacturer of X-ray devices.

On Feb. 17, 2009, the Parker Medical employee filed a complaint with OSHA's Hartford Area Office, which began an inspection on Feb. 19, 2009. Parker Medical discharged the employee the next day. The employee filed whistleblower complaints with OSHA following his discharge, and subsequent OSHA investigations found evidence to verify the claim of retaliation.

The judgment permanently prohibit Parker Medical from discriminating against, restraining or coercing any employee who files a complaint with OSHA, cooperates with an OSHA investigation or exercises any other rights guaranteed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Parker Medical has agreed to pay the discharged employee $12,000 in back wages and interest, display the OSHA poster with information about whistleblower rights – in English and Spanish – in its workplace, expunge the employee's personnel record of all references to the situation and provide a neutral job reference.

The president of Parker Medical has responded in a letter published in the Voices News on November 7th:

Concerns for Free Enterprise

Published:Wednesday, November 7, 2012 7:03 AM EST
To the Editor:

Parker Medical, Inc., a manufacturing company with 44 employees located in Bridgewater, would like to make a statement regarding a news release by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The referenced article tarnished the good name and efforts employed by a family business started more than 28 years ago to pursue the American Dream.

U.S. Department of Labor release number 12-1968-BOS/BOS 2012-184 refers to an alleged violation regarding employee whistleblower rights.

Its claim as stated is completely unfounded. The employee was sent home without pay about a week before the OSHA visit for not complying with a safety practice. OSHA and the Labor Department did not consider our excellent record regarding employee relations.

It took 3-1/2 years for OSHA to settle the case. We believe OSHA and the Labor Department, as well as other government agencies, are overstepping their roles and not applying fairness in their decisions.

PMI is all for striving for 100 percent safety in the work place. It welcomes productive OSHA inspection visits. PMI holds quarterly safety meetings to assess safety issues.

In 2010, PMI was recognized as the best mid-sized company in Connecticut. We could go on about our beneficial proactive business practices, but that is not the objective of this notice.

As a mainstay of the American economy, business owners and the public at large must speak out on unnecessary impediments that limit small business activities and growth.

To accomplish this goal, community support is necessary. We would like to hear from the readers who share these views, especially business owners.

It is intended to form a local group to deal with these obstructions that undermine the free enterprise system. Government agencies will be informed of our concerns.

William P. Holland, Sr.
President, Parker Medical, Inc.

Go to the letter in the Voices News.

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