Running a small or midsize business comes with numerous responsibilities, including compliance with employment laws and regulations. Failure to adhere to these laws can result in severe penalties and legal consequences.
A recent case involving Avera Careflight, a South Dakota-based helicopter ambulance service, highlights the importance of maintaining a fair and safe working environment for employees.
In this article, we discuss the repercussions faced by Avera Careflight after violating employment laws and the lessons that small and midsize business owners can learn from this case.
The Retaliation Case
Avera Careflight found itself in hot water after a federal whistleblower investigation discovered that the company retaliated against a mechanic who had reported safety concerns and filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted the investigation, which revealed several violations by Avera Careflight.
Violation of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act
OSHA found that Avera Careflight’s actions violated the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, which protects employees who refuse to perform work assignments when they reasonably believe the assignments would cause them to violate aviation safety regulations.
The company terminated the mechanic’s employment after they raised safety concerns and filed the FAA complaint. As a result, OSHA ordered Avera Careflight to reinstate the mechanic and pay more than $30,600 in back wages and $25,000 in damages. The company was also directed to remove negative reports from the employee’s personnel record.
Lessons for Small and Midsize Business Owners
This case underscores the importance of protecting employees who report violations or safety concerns. Small and midsize business owners should create an environment that encourages employees to raise concerns without fear of retaliation. Establish clear policies and procedures for reporting complaints and ensure that employees are aware of their rights.
Compliance with Aviation Safety Regulations
If your business operates in an industry subject to specific safety regulations, such as aviation, it is crucial to prioritize compliance.
Stay up to date with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards, and provide proper training and resources to employees to ensure they understand and adhere to these requirements.
Fair Treatment of Employees
Employers must treat their employees fairly and avoid taking adverse actions against them for exercising their legal rights. Encourage open communication, listen to employee concerns, and take appropriate action to address any issues raised. It is essential to foster a positive work environment where employees feel valued and respected.
Familiarize Yourself with Employment Laws
As a small or midsize business owner, it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the employment laws and regulations that apply to your industry and location.
Stay informed about any updates or changes in these laws and seek legal guidance if needed. Compliance with employment laws is crucial to avoid penalties and protect both your employees and your business.
The Avera Careflight case serves as a stark reminder of the severe consequences businesses may face for violating employment laws and retaliating against employees who raise concerns.
As a small or midsize business owner, it is essential to prioritize compliance, protect whistleblowers, treat employees fairly, and stay informed about relevant employment laws. By doing so, you can create a safe and productive workplace while mitigating the risks of penalties and legal actions that can harm your business’s reputation and financial stability.