OSHA: American retaliated against workers who reported fumes

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines will contest a small fine that it faces after federal officials ruled the airline retaliated against flight attendants who complained about jet fuel fumes seeping into airplane cabins.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a $6,837 fine against the airline after an investigation that started in August. Flight attendants who complained of illness said the airline docked attendance points and discouraged them from reporting the incidents.

American has 15 business days from Wednesday’s OSHA move to appeal the fine.

“We respectfully disagree with the investigator’s findings and have scheduled a conference with OSHA to further discuss the investigation,” American spokesman Rob Himler said Thursday. He said safety “is always American’s top priority.”

The federal agency’s regional director in Fort Worth, Timothy Minor, said the flight attendants were within their rights to report illnesses related to fumes.

“Workers must feel empowered to inform managers and others about potential hazards that jeopardize workers’ safety and health,” Minor said in a statement.

OSHA did not immediately provide more details about its investigation.

Airline unions have complained for many years about flight attendants being exposed to toxic fumes from jet fuel, oil and other substances. Airlines are not required to tell passengers about fume events, and the government does not keep track of how often such incidents occur.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2020 that airlines have asked Boeing to install air sensors on it planes for years. The aircraft manufacturer has resisted because it fears information from the sensors could help crew members and passengers in lawsuits and lead to sensors being required on all planes, the newspaper said.

Last year, several Democrats in Congress introduced union-backed legislation to require airlines to install air-monitoring equipment on planes and require the Federal Aviation Administration to track and report on the number of fume incidents reported by airline crews. The legislation died without ever getting a vote.

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