A Texas-based law firm representing a former Southwest Airlines cargo manager says their client was fired for bringing to light the unsafe transportation of hazardous materials on Southwest Airlines passenger jets. The Southwest cargo manager, Jeffrey Bondurant, also began to question whether the airline was properly reporting "discrepancies" to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Just last week, the FAA proposed a $12 million fine against Southwest Airlines for faulty repairs being made to its Boeing 737 jets since 2006. "Southwest Airlines problems are not confined to repairs," said Provost Umphrey Law Firm Attorney Jane Swearingen Leger in a press statement Monday. Leger is representing Jeffrey Bondurant in a whistleblowers case against Southwest Airlines. "The lawyers at Provost Umphrey have found that Southwest Airlines has safety issues related to transporting hazardous materials on passenger planes."
In January 2012, Bondurant's work performance was evaluated as "outstanding." On Feb. 22, 2012, Bondurant discovered that Southwest Airlines had improperly shipped a package of lithium ion batteries that was not packaged or labeled correctly. Improperly packaged lithium ion batteries have resulted in fires that have downed cargo planes and killed flight crewmembers. Bondurant notified a group of five managers that the batteries had, in fact, been shipped on a Southwest Airlines passenger flight. Less than two months after bringing forth his concern, Bondurant's employment with Southwest Airlines was terminated after 23 years.
After his firing, Bondurant filed an AIR21 Complaint. The AIR21 statute protects whistleblowers in the aviation industry from discrimination in respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
As a result of the whistleblower claims, the FAA launched an investigation into the February 2012 incident. During the FAA investigation, Southwest made statements to the FAA that are contradicted by the evidence brought forth by Bondurant's claims. On Nov. 7, 2012, the FAA sent a Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty to Southwest Airlines, recommending a $16,200 fine.