New whistleblower rules outlined by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act have resulted in a favorable judgment for a former Atlantic Coast Airlines employee who was fired after raising concerns about pilot fraud, the Associated Press reported.
Stacy Platone was the airline's labor relations manager before being fired last year. An administrative judge awarded back pay and lawyer fees after finding in her favor. The amount of back pay has not yet been determined.
Platone had filed a complaint claiming that some members of the pilots' union were taking advantage of a labor stipulation that let them collect pay on days they didn't fly as long as they were working on union matters, the AP reported. She told her supervisors about her suspicions of fraud, which the ruling show cost the airline up to $25,000 per month. She was told to ignore the issue.
"Instead of being praised for finding an abuse, she was fired," Platone's lawyer, Michael York, told the AP.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 made it easier for workers to pursue whistleblower complaints by stating they do not have to prove fraud occurred or prove they were filed solely because of the whistleblowing, the AP reported. They now just have to prove that they had a reasonable belief that fraud was happening and that their efforts to uncover it were a contributing factor in their firing.
Her case was the third to receive a favorable outcome since the law was passed two years ago.
Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge Linda Chapman wrote that Platone's "suspicions were reasonable, and that she had good grounds to believe that a fraud was being perpetrated on the airline as well as (Atlantic Coast's) stockholders."
Chapman also said, "the events surrounding (Platone's) disclosure of her findings ... buttress a conclusion that she had indeed uncovered fraudulent activity."
The airline plans to appeal the ruling, spokesman Rick DeLisi, told AP. "We believe (the judge's) decision is inconsistent with the facts and law that should have governed this case," DeLisi said.