Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/05/2012 05:29:17 PM PST

An administrative law judge from the U.S. Department of Labor has ruled in favor of a San Bernardino man who says he was wrongfully fired from an aircraft maintenance company that he worked for at San Bernardino International Airport.

Michael Harding, 72, is owed back pay and reimbursement of lost medical benefits, dating back to his being fired in 2007 from Southern California Precision Aircraft Inc., a company whose assets were later purchased by Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services, according to Russell D. Pulver, the administrative law judge.

The published order, issued on Dec. 19, did not state the amount owed to Harding, but Harding says he was earning about $52,000 a year.

Pulver ruled that Harding should be rehired, finding that he was fired because he filed complaints to the Federal Aviation Administration and his supervisors regarding numerous safety violations related to aircraft being worked on at the airport.

He also found no evidence for the company’s claims that Harding was fired for poor job performance.

“…the secondhand versions of the reason for termination pale in comparison to the facts offered by (Harding) in his very credible testimony,” Pulver wrote in his decision.

Harding worked as a senior audit inspector. He testified that throughout his time with the company, he witnessed many safety issues and addressed them with management.

Pulver ruled that Harding’s actions were protected under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century.

A provision under the law prohibits an air carrier, or contractor or subcontractor of an air carrier from firing or discriminating against an employee because the employee provided his supervisors or the federal government information related to violations or alleged violations of air carrier safety.

Pulver ordered that Harding be paid by Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services, which in 2008 took over the same type of repair work that Southern California Precision Aircraft Inc. had done.

According to Pulver’s ruling, Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services also assumed the liabilities of Southern California Precision Aircraft Inc., including the payment of any back wages owed to employees.

Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services was listed among 16 companies in an FBI warrant served at the airport in September.

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