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FRAUD: Delta “weaponized” a bogus psychological assessment to silence whistleblower

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Old December 28th 20, 02:19 PM posted to rec.aviation.piloting
Larry Dighera
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Posts: 3,953
Default FRAUD: Delta “weaponized” a bogus psychological assessment to silence whistleblower


Tribunal Rules Delta ‘Retaliated’ Against Pilot For Safety Report

Russ Niles December 27, 20202

A Labor Department tribunal has awarded a Delta pilot $500,000 in a
whistleblower case after determining the airline “weaponized” a bogus
psychological assessment that grounded her for two years. Speaking for
the panel, Administrative Law Judge Scott Morris further determined
that the trip to the psychiatrist was retaliation for Karlene Pettit’s
drafting a 43-page report detailing alleged safety issues at the
airline, and its safety culture. Petitt has a doctorate in aviation
safety. The psychiatrist retained by Delta determined that Petitt was
bipolar and therefore disqualified from flying. Two subsequent
examinations repudiated those findings and were critical of the
original psychiatrist, who subsequently lost his license to practice
for his involvement in another case that resulted in another pilot
disqualification. Delta had already reported the diagnosis to the FAA
medical section before the two later examinations were conducted.

In his decision, Morris determined that Petitt had proven that the use
of Delta’s so-called “Section 15” was the culmination of a plot among
high-level Delta executives to retaliate against the 40-year veteran
pilot for bringing up the alleged safety issues. “To be clear, the
Tribunal fervently believes, when properly used, the Section 15
process is a valuable and needed tool to protect Respondent (Delta),
its pilots, the pilots union, but most importantly, the public,”
Morris wrote. “However, it is improper for Respondent to weaponize
this process for the purposes of obtaining blind compliance by its
pilots due to fear that Respondent can ruin their career by such
cavalier use of this tool of last resort.” In an unusual move, Morris
also ordered the airline to publish the judgment where its pilots
could see it to educate them on the value and importance of
whistleblower protection in assuring that important issues of public
interest can be raised.

Among those deposed for the hearing was FAA Administrator Steve
Dickson, who was Delta’s VP of Flight Operations at the time. An FAA
spokesman told AVweb Dickson met once with Petitt when she presented
her report to him and chief pilot Jim Graham. ”The matter was handled
by a cross-divisional team, as were hundreds of other disciplinary
proceedings,” the spokesman said. He referred AVweb to Dickson’s
testimony at his Senate confirmation hearing where the Petitt case was
raised. In that testimony, Dickson also said that he believed the
decision to invoke Section 15 was justified by “a credible report
about statements the pilot made to company officials and behavior she
exhibited, which raised legitimate questions about her fitness to

Petitt had asked for $30 million in compensatory damages but the
tribunal rejected the claim because it viewed the claim as a bid to
claim punitive damages, which the tribunal cannot award. The $500,000
award was higher than most cases of this nature but Morris said the
emotional and reputation harm endured by Petitt was unusually damaging
to her. She was also awarded back pay and other compensation for the
time she was grounded. Petitt did not respond to AVweb’s request for

Delta also did not respond to AVweb but told The Wall Street Journal
it plans to appeal the decision and denies it retaliated against
Petitt with the psychiatric assessment. It said it encourages
voluntary reporting of safety issues by employees and has “zero
tolerance for retaliation in any form.”

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