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Avera Careflight ordered to reinstate mechanic who reported safety concerns

The United States Department of Labor is ordering a South Dakota helicopter ambulance service to reinstate a mechanic who reported safety concerns.

Officials determined Avera Careflight in Sioux Falls retaliated against an Aberdeen-based mechanic who reported a problem.

Last September, he filed a complaint to the FAA about the safety of the helicopters. He was fired a few weeks later, according to the Department of Labor.

OSHA found the company violated the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, which protects employees who notify authorities that their employer is violating federal law in relation to air carrier safety.

“Employees must be able to freely exercise their legal rights regarding workplace safety without fear of retaliation by their employer,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer S. Rous in a press release.

Avera Careflight was also ordered to pay $55,000 in back wages and damages.

Federal law protects employees who refuse to perform certain work assignments if they believe that it would violate aviation safety regulations.

Madeline Grabow is a South Dakota Public Broadcasting intern based in Sioux Falls. She is a sophomore at Georgetown University studying international politics.