OSHA: Airport employee apparently demoted in retaliation
Feb. 18, 2017
CLEVELAND (AP) — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found that a Cleveland airport employee was apparently demoted in retaliation for alerting officials to runway snowplowing problems and should be reinstated to his former position.
OSHA Assistant Regional Administrator Mary Ann Howe wrote in a recent letter that a preliminary finding from the agency's investigation suggests Abdul-Malik Ali was warranted in blowing the whistle on inadequate staffing and a lack of de-icing chemicals on snow removal crews in recent winters at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Cleveland.com reported (http://bit.ly/2lmtMSs ).
Howe said the agency's findings are not yet final. The city has 10 business days to provide additional evidence supporting its position. The OSHA has also invited the city to propose a settlement.
A city spokesman declined to comment.
Ali had filed a complaint with the Department of Labor in 2015, saying that in February of that year, he was removed from his 15-year post as manager of field maintenance by then-Airport Director Ricky Smith after Ali told a Federal Aviation Administration inspector that his crews had been understaffed in violation of an agreement the airport had reached with the FAA three months earlier. The agreement spelled out how many field maintenance employees must be on duty to combat snow and ice.
Ali said he was transferred to the job of "assistant to the deputy commissioner."
The city has said that Smith had been unaware of what Ali told the FAA at the time. Smith reassigned Ali because of a long history of complaints that he was a poor manager, the city said.
In September 2015, the FAA sent the city notices of violations, some that stemmed from an incident in which the airport's field maintenance crew was understaffed on all shifts on a day in March 2015. Snow and ice accumulated on runways and pilots refused to land, reporting poor braking conditions, as a result.
Ali's attorney said Wednesday that Ali feels vindicated by the findings of the FAA and OSHA.