An investigation by the United States Department of Labor found that some of the nation’s largest airlines allegedly retaliated against flight attendants who reported illnesses as a result of fumes emitted in aircraft cabins, according to a press release from the DOL.
American Airlines said on Friday that it disagrees with the findings of the federal investigation, conducted by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), per Fox Business.
“Federal law protects workers’ rights to voice workplace safety and health concerns without the fear of retaliation,” said Timothy Minor, OSHA area director of Fort Worth. “When employers punish employees for doing so, they create a chilling effect that may stop workers from reporting future issues, putting their health and well-being, and that of co-workers, at risk.”
OSHA said that the company docked attendance points for employees who filed complaints about illnesses from the fumes and discouraged its staff members from reporting anything about illnesses or injuries incurred on the job.
American Airlines now has 15 business days to either comply with penalties handed down by OSHA or contest the results of the investigation. OSHA proposed a total of $6,837 in penalties.
“Our investigation found that the flight attendants engaged in protected activities when they reported illnesses related to jet fuel fumes seeping into the aircraft cabin,” Minor continued. “Workers must feel empowered to inform managers and others about potential hazards that jeopardize workers’ safety and health.”
American Airlines released a statement to Fox Business disputing the conclusions of the department’s report.
“The safety of our team members and customers is always American’s top priority,” American Airlines said in an email. “We respectfully disagree with the investigator’s findings and have scheduled a conference with OSHA to further discuss the investigation.”
The investigation was prompted by a whistleblower report in August 2022. OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces more than 20 statutes involving whistleblowers that are intended to protect employees from retaliation in a variety of work settings.