US Department of Labor orders Louisiana helicopter ambulance service to reinstate Utah pilot who refused to fly in hazardous conditions
PARK CITY, UT– A federal whistleblower investigation has found a Shreveport, Louisiana-based provider of helicopter ambulance services retaliated against a pilot in Utah who refused to fly twice in 2021 amid concerns about limited visibility.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration examined the pilot’s complaint against Metro Aviation LLC after the employer forced them to resign, retire or be involuntarily separated from the company two weeks after the Aug. 10, 2021, refusals.
OSHA found that Metro Aviation’s actions violated the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century. The department’s Administrative Review Board held that this federal law protects employees who refuse to perform work assignments when they reasonably believe these assignments would cause them to violate aviation safety regulations.
The department ordered the company to reinstate the pilot and pay them more than $171,000 in back wages and $17,000 in other damages.
“Employees must freely exercise their legal rights regarding workplace safety with no fear of retaliation by their employer,” explained OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer S. Rous in Denver. “The outcome of this investigation and the action on the pilot’s behalf underscores the department’s commitment to protecting workers’ rights.”
The company and the former employee may file objections or request a hearing with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges within 30 days of receiving the agency’s order.
Incorporated in 1982 as a helicopter charter, flight training and maintenance operation, Metro Aviation currently operates more than 140 aircraft in more than 25 states to serve hospitals and other customers.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the AIR21 and more than 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities, tax, criminal antitrust and anti-money laundering laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.
Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.