This week, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered Metro Aviation to reinstate a Utah-based air ambulance pilot who refused to fly twice in August 2021 over concerns about limited visibility. Metro was also ordered to pay the pilot $171,000 in back pay and $17,000 in damages. The company has 30 days to appeal.
The order followed the filing of a federal whistleblower complaint with the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that alleged Metro caused the pilot to “resign, retire, or be involuntarily separated from the company” following the two refusals that took place on Aug. 10, 2021. OSHA found Metro in violation of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21), which contains protections for employees “who refuse to perform work assignments when they reasonably believe these assignments would cause them to violate aviation safety regulations.”
“Employees must freely exercise their legal rights regarding workplace safety with no fear of retaliation by their employer,” said Jennifer Rous, a Denver-based OSHA regional administrator. “The outcome of this investigation and the action on the pilot’s behalf underscores the department’s commitment to protecting workers’ rights.”
In a statement, Metro Aviation said, "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."