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Fired LITH pilot awarded $500K

LAKE IN THE HILLS – A pilot fired more than three years ago will be reinstated and paid more than $500,000 after investigators determined he was illegally terminated from the Lake in the Hills-based Northern Illinois Flight Center, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that officials at the flight center broke the law in spring 2009 when they dismissed an Illinois pilot because he contacted the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss violations of the pilot certification process, according to a news release.

The violations revolve around whistle-blower protection provisions in the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, the news release said.

OSHA has ordered the company to immediately reinstate the employee and pay more than $500,000 in back wages, benefits and damages.

The employee alleged that he was asked to falsify a pilot certification form for a training flight he performed with another pilot in February 2009, according to the Labor Department.

He also stated that in March 2009, supervisors tried to sway him into signing a back-dated and incorrect form.

The pilot informed his supervisors that he was going to contact the FAA Flight Standards District, the news release said.

He contacted the FAA in late March and was terminated in April, with no reason given.

Howard Seedorf, the president and CEO of Northern Illinois Flight Center, said the company plans to appeal the decision. Seedorf said he has been in business for 30 years and such a thing has never happened. He said that the safety allegations were from a disgruntled employee and called the claims “totally incorrect.”

Seedorf would not comment further because of the pending appeal.

The investigation by OSHA’s Chicago office concluded that employee would not have been terminated had he not requested to meet with the FAA about the pilot certification process and forms.

The labor department does not release the names of employees involved in whistle-blower complaints.

An appeal can be filed within 30 days.

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