American Airlines faces penalties for punishing flight attendants who reported toxic in-cabin fumes

Saul Loeb

American Airlines illicitly retaliated against flight attendants who reported toxic fumes entering airplane cabins, according to an investigation by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

According to a whistleblower investigation initiated in August, the Texas-based carrier responded to the flight attendants' complaints by docking attendance points and discouraging them from reporting work-related injuries and illnesses.

“Our investigation found that the flight attendants engaged in protected activities when they reported illnesses related to jet fuel fumes seeping into the aircraft cabin,” Timothy Minor, OSHA’s area director in Fort Worth, Texas, said in a statement. “Workers must feel empowered to inform managers and others about potential hazards that jeopardize workers’ safety and health.”

Julie Hedrick, the national president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendant, which represents American Airlines' 25,000 flight attendants, blasted the carrier in a statement for using a strict new attendance program to punish workers.

"The fact that American Airlines is assigning points that can lead to termination for lingering effects of toxic fume inhalation and other work-related injuries is unacceptable," the association said. "We are encouraged that OSHA has agreed with APFA and affected Flight Attendants.”

OSHA is proposing a penalty of nearly $7,000.

In a statement, American said: "The safety of our team members and customers is always American’s top priority. We are reviewing the findings of the OSHA investigation."

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com