Southwest Airlines Reaches Settlement in Whistleblower Lawsuit

A Southwest Airlines employee claims that he was retaliated against for uncovering and reporting two cracks while investigating the fuselage of a Boeing 737-700 during his regular maintenance checks. Now, Southwest has agreed to remove that discipline from the mechanic’s personal file and will pay him $35,000 in fees.

The mechanic filed the lawsuit under the AIR-21 statute, which gives airline workers that are wrongfully disciplined or fired for reporting safety information the ability to go through an appeals process. An administrative judge from the Department of Labor dismissed Southwest’s motion for summary judgment on January 8 and granted in part a motion for summary judgment issued by the mechanic, clearing the way for the mechanic to earn money from the claim.

Southwest Airlines maintenance protocol requires mechanics to perform certain investigations on airplanes before they are used for flights. One of those requirements is for the mechanic to walk around and perform a visual inspection of the aircraft. During this “walk-around” inspection, the mechanic found and documented two cracks on the fuselage, and the aircraft was removed and repaired according to protocol.

Shortly after, however, the mechanic was called into a meeting and was accused by supervisors of working outside of his scope of duty. He was warned that any further violations could result in disciplinary action. The mechanic said in his complaint that Southwest’s intent was to dissuade employees from reporting the discovery of cracks or other abnormalities.

When you believe you have been retaliated against for reporting wrongdoing within your company or organization, meet with the experienced Dallas attorneys at Whistleblower Law for Managers to learn about your options.