Like many of you, I realize that there are inherent risks in an airplane flying. As a result of these risks, if someone had pointed out a safety problem, I would appreciate a crew member being responsible enough to investigate the problem if it had been pointed out to them. That does not appear to be how JetBlue saw the situation, as reported on the USDOL press release page.
According to the report “…a passenger aboard a flight scheduled to leave from John F. Kennedy International Airport remarked about a perceived safety violation. In response, the attendant exited the plane onto the jet way to contact a supervisor for guidance on addressing the safety concern.” Most of us would have appreciated her actions, however, JetBlue did not. Instead, JetBlue fired her. The OSHA announcement said, “An OSHA investigation concluded that the attendant’s whistleblower activity, which is protected under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), was a contributing factor in the termination.” As a result, JetBlue Corporation was required to clear the affected personnel file and pay $143,783.66 in back pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees, and post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections.
OSHA is tasked with protecting whistleblower provisions of 22 different laws, including the AIR21 Act and Sarbanes-Oxley. JetBlue can appeal the decision, so this judgment may not hold, though they have had to reinstate the employee and post the notices.
Personally, I think the employee should have been rewarded for reporting the safety violation. I think if we had asked all the passengers they would have agreed.
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