Awful: Delta Labels Whistleblower Pilot As “Bipolar”

Awful: Delta Labels Whistleblower Pilot As “Bipolar”

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Dominic Gates at The Seattle Times has a shocking story about how a Delta pilot was fired for mental health reasons after reporting safety issues. She ended up being reinstated after a legal battle lasting years, as it was exposed just how one-sided Delta’s investigation was.

Delta tries to fire “bipolar” whistleblower pilot

In December 2016, Delta Air Lines fired Karlene Petitt, an Airbus A330 pilot, after she was labeled mentally unfit for duty. She had been grounded since March 2016, pending an evaluation by a company-assigned doctor.

Petitt had been a commercial airline pilot for 35 years, raised three children, earned a doctorate and two master’s degrees, and wrote a series of books, all while being an airline pilot. So, what’s the issue?

In November 2015, Petitt had sent emails to supervisors at the airline, criticizing Delta’s safety culture. Specifically, she had been working on her doctorate in aviation safety, and in late 2015 she listened to an interview with Delta’s CEO at the time, where he said it’s the duty of all employees to speak up if they’re aware of any safety issues.

So Petitt made this the topic of her thesis. She began requesting meetings with her supervisors at Delta. She had allegedly presented a report that listed a series of lapses and included analysis on some nearly catastrophic incidents.

Less than a week later, Delta’s VP of Flight Operations at the time, sent an email to a pilot manager below him, indicating that he would put an end to Petitt’s flying by exercising “Section 15,” which would label her too mentally unstable to be a pilot. He wrote the following in an email:

“We should consider whether a Section 15 is appropriate. If she cannot embrace and understand the reasons behind our actions, it stands to reason she might not be able to make appropriate decisions for the safe operation of a flight.”

In 2016, Delta hired a doctor that the company had a longstanding relationship with, who evaluated Petitt as having bipolar disorder. That doctor later testified in court that his diagnosis was partly driven by the number of accomplishments of Petitt, claiming that what she accomplished was “well beyond what any woman I’ve ever met could do,” suggesting she was manic.

The catch is, Delta’s process for these situations allows an accused pilot to select an independent medical examiner. Petitt engaged a panel of nine experts from the Mayo Clinic’s Aerospace Medicine Department. They unanimously concluded that she didn’t have any psychiatric disorders. A doctor on the panel testified that the diagnosis was “a puzzle for the group.” As he explained:

“The evidence does not support presence of a psychiatric diagnosis but does support an organizational/corporate effort to remove this pilot from the rolls.”

Delta tried to fire a pilot for mental health reasons

Delta pilot fights back, wins

With her career at Delta seemingly over in late 2016, Petitt didn’t give up. Rather, she fought back. After a legal battle lasting around six years, Petitt has been fully vindicated:

  • To start, Petitt had her job reinstated after the Mayo Clinic panel sided with her; for quite some time she has been back to flying wide body jets out of Seattle
  • Delta has had to pay Petitt $500,000 as compensation, in addition to paying for years of legal fees
  • The doctor who diagnosed Petitt as having bipolar disorder forfeited his medical license, rather than facing charges over his conduct
  • The judge overseeing the case ruled it “improper for [Delta] to weaponize this process for the purposes of obtaining blind compliance by its pilots”

Petitt’s attorney, Lee Seham, has represented dozens of aviation whistleblowers, and says he has “never before been in such an ugly war of attrition as with Delta,” and accused Delta of a “Soviet-style psychiatric examination.”

Following this, Delta released the following statement, clearly not admitting any wrongdoing:

“We made a business decision to settle the matter rather than appeal a decision that we disagreed with. Delta’s fitness for duty testing process for pilots is in place to ensure safety and it works.”

Delta has lost this case, big time

Bottom line

Back in 2016, Delta labeled a pilot as unfit to fly, after she reported safety issues to the airline. A doctor who had a relationship with the airline was behind the diagnosis, though an independent panel of doctors had a different conclusion.

After a drawn out legal practice, the pilot has been reinstated and has received significant compensation. On top of that, the doctor who labeled her as bipolar has lost his medical license.

My gosh, this story really doesn’t paint Delta in a good light…

What do you make of this Delta whistleblower incident?

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  1. Captain Douglas Walter Greene Guest

    First Officer, Karlene Petitt’s case, highlighting Delta Airline’s workplace violence and retaliation is a common practice in the airline industry, that presents a Clear and Present Danger to the flying public as we know it. This is supported by the Dark Money controlled government regulatory agencies who are supposed to protect pilots (safety keepers of the sky), but instead they sustain airline corruption to create the “perfect compliant pilot,” by putting fear in pilots across...

    First Officer, Karlene Petitt’s case, highlighting Delta Airline’s workplace violence and retaliation is a common practice in the airline industry, that presents a Clear and Present Danger to the flying public as we know it. This is supported by the Dark Money controlled government regulatory agencies who are supposed to protect pilots (safety keepers of the sky), but instead they sustain airline corruption to create the “perfect compliant pilot,” by putting fear in pilots across the industry from enforcing airline safety and security.

    As mentioned in Marty Labut’s review, United Parcel Service (UPS) has been using EXTREME measures to commit 18 USC crimes, with impunity, to target myself, Captain Douglas Walter Greene and over 155 UPS pilots that we know of, who dared to enforce airline safety & security. This has created a UPS pilot workforce that is terrified to “Say Something, if They See Something.” With over 6000 pages of overwhelming evidence “Beyond Reasonable Doubt,” to include audio files, transcripts, and more, I have personally spent the last 10 years of my life and over a half million dollars simply trying to “Get My Day in Court” by a rigged system that is controlled by corporate Dark Money to sequester justice from overt acts of workplace violence & retaliation against the American Worker.

    Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents prove that both First Officer, Karlene Petitt and I, both had our AIR21 Whistleblower cases unlawfully dismissed. First Officer, Karlene Petitt and I, had the same Department of Labor (DOL) Investigator, Paul McDevitt, who blatantly ignored the mandatory 8 elements of the DOL Office of Inspector General (OIG) to conduct a proper investigation. After appeal to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), unlike First Officer, Karlene Petitt, my case was unlawfully dismissed, by the ALJ, Granting UPS Motion for Summary Judgement, despite THOUSANDS of Material Facts in Dispute. The FOIA documents show overwhelming fraud ignored by BOTH the DOL & the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while aiding and abetting UPS to conceal countless 18 USC crimes. After filing an appeal to the Administrative Review Board (ARB), my appeal was tampered with and has been sitting on ice with no review since 2016, filed long before First Officer, Karlene Petitt’s case. This is the new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the face of aviation safety and security in the United States of America.

    UPS blatantly committed coercion by forcing troubled pilots with DUI’s to write false statements, to include UPS overtly falsifying FAA records in violation their own business code of conduct that demands integrity and accuracy in records. UPS CEO, Carol Tome was provided with all the evidence detailing the 18 USC crimes committed, yet she has chosen to do nothing to right the wrong. This illicit corporate culture is the direct result of the fatal aircraft tragedies of UPS 6 in Dubai and UPS 1354 in Birmingham, AL, resulting in the tragic and preventable deaths of pilots, Captain Doug Lampe, First Officer Matthew Bell, Captain Cerea Beal, and First Officer Shanda Fanning. These horrific events were directly related to pilots afraid to “Say Something, when they Saw Something,” in fear of workplace of workplace violence and retaliation of discipline up to and including termination to end their careers.

    Many are quick to criticize those like First Officer, Karlene Petitt and myself, who have sacrificed themselves to be professional in doing what’s right to uphold airline safety and security, until it happens to them for “whatever” reason. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on an excellent article and review of Delta’s heinous crimes of workplace violence and retaliation against First Officer, Karlene Petitt. Please stand strong with me, Captain Douglas Walter Greene still fighting for JUSTICE, by providing an equal opportunity to be interviewed so as to highlight even more heinous crimes committed by UPS, who has spent over 6 million dollars to conceal their crimes from ever seeing the light of honest adjudication thus far suppressed by the UPS controlled DOL, FAA, and Federalist Society Dark Money Courts.

  2. Angie Guest

    Justice was served and shameful airline!

  3. Martin Labut Guest

    United Parce Service (UPS) management also retaliates and commits workplace violence against UPS pilots. UPS targets pilots' medical certificates but in a much more devious and repugnant manner than that of Delta. UPS coerces, forces or blackmails pilots who have FAA undisclosed or disclosed DUIs into writing false statements regarding UPS pilots who have addressed safety or ethical concerns. UPS knowingly has submitted false statements to at least 2 FAA AMEs for the AMEs to...

    United Parce Service (UPS) management also retaliates and commits workplace violence against UPS pilots. UPS targets pilots' medical certificates but in a much more devious and repugnant manner than that of Delta. UPS coerces, forces or blackmails pilots who have FAA undisclosed or disclosed DUIs into writing false statements regarding UPS pilots who have addressed safety or ethical concerns. UPS knowingly has submitted false statements to at least 2 FAA AMEs for the AMEs to refer to when deciding whether or not a pilot has a medical condition that may affect their ability to safely perform their duties as a crewmember.

    Delta used management personnel to retaliate against First Officer Pettit.

    UPS uses management AND effectively forces UPS/IPA pilots to write false statements in order to send "problem" pilots to unwarranted medical exams/ fitness for duty exams to not only end their UPS careers but to ensure that pilot NEVER flies again for any airline.

    The retaliation tactics utilized by UPS to target and terminate Captain Douglas Greene who is a 22 year military veteran and 20 year UPS pilot make Delta's retaliation against First Officer Pettit look like child's play.

    UPS management culture of retaliation, workplace violence, dishonesty, bullying, and submission of false documents is a direct threat to the safety and security of the airline industry, the safety of the general public and the safety of UPS pilots. This culture of fear most likely contributed to the tragic loss of lives on UPS 6 and UPS 1354. UPSers are aware of certain retaliation if they call in fatigued or report safety and ethical issues at UPS.

  4. joe marzano Guest

    Petitt had been a commercial airline pilot for 35 years, raised three children, earned a doctorate and two master’s degrees, and wrote a series of books, all while being an airline pilot.

    this doesn’t really support your argument that she is not bipolar.

  5. Bob Guest

    This is most fortune 500 companies with an EEO department to "help the employees" but in reality to protect the company or more specifically the upper management.

  6. Louise B Andrew MD Guest

    These soviet style abuse of psychiatry tactics are unfortunately not limited to the airline industry.
    Physicians who raise safety concerns are also labeled by employers and hospitals as "disruptive" and sent at their own expense for multi-day inpatient comprehensive evaluations at out-of-state residential facilities run by for-hire physicians (like David Altman) resulting in pre-determined diagnoses, usually including substance use disorders in the absence of medically acceptable criteria. If they refuse, their licenses are revoked....

    These soviet style abuse of psychiatry tactics are unfortunately not limited to the airline industry.
    Physicians who raise safety concerns are also labeled by employers and hospitals as "disruptive" and sent at their own expense for multi-day inpatient comprehensive evaluations at out-of-state residential facilities run by for-hire physicians (like David Altman) resulting in pre-determined diagnoses, usually including substance use disorders in the absence of medically acceptable criteria. If they refuse, their licenses are revoked. These sham evaluations lead to lengthy, exorbitant inpatient "rehabilitation" in facilities (owned by the same ilk) followed by 5 years of monitoring. Physicians are advised by counsel to just "go along to get along". Perhaps Pettit's victory will help non-airline industry whistleblowers.

  7. RD Guest

    All too typical corporate machinations, is it a surprise not really. These corporations are mostly hypocrites by and large. Most CEO’s
    are corporate windbags and are such cowards.

  8. Mike Brogan Guest

    Those hats are too tight and cutting off blood flow to the brains of management. Sounds about right based on what some pilot buddies have said that corporate culture there is like. Glad I chose a different airline to fly for than Delta…good grief!

  9. Too much education may be Bad for your Health Guest

    I used to know a scientist (Phd in Physics) living in a Tenderloin Hotel . very intelligent Fellow, But had issues!

    1. ArthurSFO Member

      I don't even know whether to react to your account's name or the comment you wrote. After reading both, I'm worried about my own mental health...

  10. Brian Gasser Guest

    @TimDunn I am sure this employee was "high maintenance" and worked in areas outside her job responsibility. This however does not excuse how Delta management that sought to get rid of her without following the contract . Management was sloppy in selecting a doctor who was open to bias and did not conduct a thorough medical evaluation with multiple doctors specialized in psychological disorders.

    The only thing that surprises me is how little cash...

    @TimDunn I am sure this employee was "high maintenance" and worked in areas outside her job responsibility. This however does not excuse how Delta management that sought to get rid of her without following the contract . Management was sloppy in selecting a doctor who was open to bias and did not conduct a thorough medical evaluation with multiple doctors specialized in psychological disorders.

    The only thing that surprises me is how little cash she was award for back salary and "pain and suffering" for going through this ordeal.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      perhaps how weak the penalty was is indicative of how poorly she/her lawyers did in convincing the deciders that Delta came to the wrong conclusion and more about how Delta did it.

      Some people won't get it but she wasn't hired to be a safety analyst/consultant, Delta listened to her and then she flipped her lid when they wouldn't adopt her ideas.

      I'm not a psychiatrist to know whether she was or is bipolar...

      perhaps how weak the penalty was is indicative of how poorly she/her lawyers did in convincing the deciders that Delta came to the wrong conclusion and more about how Delta did it.

      Some people won't get it but she wasn't hired to be a safety analyst/consultant, Delta listened to her and then she flipped her lid when they wouldn't adopt her ideas.

      I'm not a psychiatrist to know whether she was or is bipolar but it sounds like she a darn good temper tantrum and then snapped back to life after she got fired.

      And, again, what did she really gain? She lost her job, nothing she was pushing has been adopted, and she got a pretty pathetic payout.

      I doubt seriously if she would say in the depth of her soul that this was all worth it.
      She died on the sword she brought to the battle.

  11. Brian Gasser Guest

    I am impressed with the defense she organized. Missing from the story was ALPA's effort in protecting her rights. I am inclined to think she did a better job advocating for herself than what her union contributed.

    1. Martin Labut Guest

      Absolutely. ALPA is a disgrace. ALPA and the IPA are both company controlled unions that assist companies in retaliating against pilots.

  12. just another pilot Guest

    Hmm, there's a lot that doesn't add up about Petitt's side of the story. Are we really supposed to believe that there was a conspiracy to fire a pilot for raising legitimate safety concerns, as her side of the story would suggest? Or would it be more reasonable to believe that there was something about Petitt's conduct that justified Delta's effort to fire a pilot? And why is it relevant that this happened when she...

    Hmm, there's a lot that doesn't add up about Petitt's side of the story. Are we really supposed to believe that there was a conspiracy to fire a pilot for raising legitimate safety concerns, as her side of the story would suggest? Or would it be more reasonable to believe that there was something about Petitt's conduct that justified Delta's effort to fire a pilot? And why is it relevant that this happened when she was pursuing her doctorate in aviation safety? Did she really have legitimate safety concerns or was she just trying to generate some material to write about for her doctorate thesis? Among the thousands of pilots at Delta who are her professional peers, did anyone else agree that her safety concerns were reasonable and legitimate?

    There are a lot of unanswered question about this case, but I simply do not find it believable that Delta would fire a pilot for raising legitimate safety concerns, and I can only conclude that there must be something about Petitt's conduct that was egregious enough for Delta to fire her. Their use of the label "mentally unfit" is just another way of saying they don't think she has good judgement, which is something that every pilot must have.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      There are reports that she was invited to meet with the highest levels of Delta's operational leadership and they did listen but did not agree with her conclusions, at which point she reportedly became repeatedly hostile to them and refused to accept their role in making any of her recommendations become reality.
      I was clearly not part of the process but there are plenty of people that can figure out how to work within...

      There are reports that she was invited to meet with the highest levels of Delta's operational leadership and they did listen but did not agree with her conclusions, at which point she reportedly became repeatedly hostile to them and refused to accept their role in making any of her recommendations become reality.
      I was clearly not part of the process but there are plenty of people that can figure out how to work within established organizational structures and she clearly was not one of them.
      And remember that she also had the option of working through ALPA, the union that represented her, but they did not apparently express interest. You have to ask why that was the case.

      And she ultimately sued Delta to regain something - which amounted to somewhere between a year and two years worth of salary (nothing for a company that generates $40 billion/year) in revenue and a requirement to post an order to 12k other pilots that clearly don't seem to struggle to work through established channels.

      I fail to see the massive loss for Delta or gain for her.

      And she, so far as we know, doesn't fly commercial aircraft or is in any role in industry aviation safety.

    2. Dr. Stan Guest

      "I simply do not find it believable that Delta would fire a pilot for raising legitimate safety concerns...."

      maybe... unless, in my life's experience, the pilot were a female in a predominantly male cohort.

  13. Ari Guest

    Reading some of these comments, I think it is very important to put Delta's actions in perspective. Irrespective of what one thinks of Petitt's 'whistleblowing' activities-- whatever they were and whatever merit they had or didn't have-- Delta's response was not to discipline her within whatever proper process or processes were in place to handle such matters. Delta decided to call in a hired-gun quack who lost his medical license in part, essentially for selling...

    Reading some of these comments, I think it is very important to put Delta's actions in perspective. Irrespective of what one thinks of Petitt's 'whistleblowing' activities-- whatever they were and whatever merit they had or didn't have-- Delta's response was not to discipline her within whatever proper process or processes were in place to handle such matters. Delta decided to call in a hired-gun quack who lost his medical license in part, essentially for selling it to Delta-- for giving Delta what it wanted instead of an honest, objective medical opinion, in the very case we're talking about.

    This is just like the United Airlines 'Chairman's Flight' on a lower dollar scale-- just pay off a licensed official to get whatever you want to avoid going through an actual process or procedure that is ordinarily required.

  14. Maryland Guest

    Just read the judge has required Delta to post the resolution at every pilot base. The culture to silence pilots on voicing concerns about safety is dangerous. Six years of Delta stalling & appeals is worth so much more than the 500k. The insults & character assassination alone should be worth ten times this amount. And nobody a Delta was disciplined!

  15. Arthur Kent Guest

    Regarding her using this issue for her thesis, and not going through the union (and/or company channels), she actually initially did try and go through company channels. Direct quote from the story:

    "In November 2015, Petitt had sent emails to supervisors at the airline, criticizing Delta’s safety culture."

    Who knows what pressure she got from doing that? Also, maybe the union advised her not to take it any further, or what seems more plausible is...

    Regarding her using this issue for her thesis, and not going through the union (and/or company channels), she actually initially did try and go through company channels. Direct quote from the story:

    "In November 2015, Petitt had sent emails to supervisors at the airline, criticizing Delta’s safety culture."

    Who knows what pressure she got from doing that? Also, maybe the union advised her not to take it any further, or what seems more plausible is that she felt she would not get the required backing/support from the union.

    I think she did the right thing, and Delta now has eggs smeared on its face!

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      and yet neither the company or union gave her the green light and the union didn't defend her.
      She chose to rewrite her own rules of employment and neither the union or company was interested in hearing her.

      Delta knows where Embry Riddle is if they wanted to go to the source.

      When someone colors outside the lines and violates organizational norms and requirements, that someone doesn't get to choose how the other side...

      and yet neither the company or union gave her the green light and the union didn't defend her.
      She chose to rewrite her own rules of employment and neither the union or company was interested in hearing her.

      Delta knows where Embry Riddle is if they wanted to go to the source.

      When someone colors outside the lines and violates organizational norms and requirements, that someone doesn't get to choose how the other side will respond.

      Given the size of her salary before termination, $500k is peanuts. Posting something in pilot bases means nothing. If DL pilots were interested in the story, they followed it. If they weren't, they didn't care then or now.

      It is also notable that she was given her job back unless she was already past 65 - which I don't know. If a company wrongly terminates, they are frequently required to rehire or pay the full damages for the rest of someone's career. $500k doesn't come close to meeting that requirement - let alone her not being rehired.

      If she wants to pursue her ideas, she should go into aviation safety at the FAA or at a university.

    2. Em Guest

      @Tim Dunn your numerous comments seems to imply only those in the FAA or university should pursue aviation safety...all in the aviation world are involved in safety - from corporate employees, to pilots, to Ground Ops, and everyone in between. It is on everyone to push and push and push when they notice something unsafe, even if they aren't "specifically" working in a role that exclusively focuses on aviation safety

    3. Tim Dunn Diamond

      her recommendations went far beyond an individual employee.
      She simply did not have the position to become a safety consultant to Delta and she didn't work through the union.
      She could have had perfectly valid recommendations that could have or should have been reviewed but that wasn't her job and she didn't work through the channels that were established for employees and union members.
      At the point she got "no" answers from...

      her recommendations went far beyond an individual employee.
      She simply did not have the position to become a safety consultant to Delta and she didn't work through the union.
      She could have had perfectly valid recommendations that could have or should have been reviewed but that wasn't her job and she didn't work through the channels that were established for employees and union members.
      At the point she got "no" answers from Delta and the union, she should have made the decision to walk away or wait until she retired to pursue her research and recommendations.
      No other Delta employee seemed to struggle with knowing where their job ended and that is true for every other airline.

      And yet people can't seem to understand that she worked outside of those norms and act as if the company was horribly wrong to get rid of her.
      The means by which they did it might have been questionable but what options did they have? And who is to say that she didn't genuinely exhibit two-faced behavior when things played out even if she did not demonstrate clinical symptoms later?

    4. Maryland Guest

      Thank you Mr Dunn for your service.
      It appears she went through channels, where Petitt's opinions were unwelcome and unheard. To use title 15 to relieve her employment as a quick solution to shut her up, appalling. And the quackery of the doctor citing her achievements as evidence of mania, and accepted by Delta, is evidence of how desperate the company was to destroy a seasoned pilot. A judge & appeals court seem to...

      Thank you Mr Dunn for your service.
      It appears she went through channels, where Petitt's opinions were unwelcome and unheard. To use title 15 to relieve her employment as a quick solution to shut her up, appalling. And the quackery of the doctor citing her achievements as evidence of mania, and accepted by Delta, is evidence of how desperate the company was to destroy a seasoned pilot. A judge & appeals court seem to agree. Sometimes you have to listen to women, even if you can't stand their voice.

    5. Stu Guest

      Unclear exactly why you so focus on the process (procedures followed/not followed) aspects of this case over the content concerns (airline safety issues deemed “prudent” and “reasonable”on administrative adjudication review). If she worked in a nuclear power plant with a PhD in nuclear physics and failed to follow corporate reporting “procedures” would you make the same singular argument? And, unions are not the final end-all and be-all on all employee complaints and concerns. Granted her...

      Unclear exactly why you so focus on the process (procedures followed/not followed) aspects of this case over the content concerns (airline safety issues deemed “prudent” and “reasonable”on administrative adjudication review). If she worked in a nuclear power plant with a PhD in nuclear physics and failed to follow corporate reporting “procedures” would you make the same singular argument? And, unions are not the final end-all and be-all on all employee complaints and concerns. Granted her “whistleblower” efforts failed to produce the desired results which is a valid aspect of questioning her methodology (but not unusual for whistleblowers), but you seem to almost be holding her to a higher standard than Delta which (in my opinion) has the greater obligation to follow ethical procedures and was found to have done the opposite on administrative review.

  16. embpilot Guest

    The comments in this post are absolutely taken out of context. Both the pilot group's representatives and the company agreed that she exhibited bipolar tendencies among a wide variety of other issues. Having personally interacted with her (in a non management role) I support Delta's position removing her from flight status and encourage readers to do their own research on this issue.

    1. Tomtom Guest

      Yes! "my own research" certainly trumps a group of medical professionals at Mayo Clinic.

    2. Brandt Guest

      Are the Pilot Union and Company qualified to make a bipolar analysis? No. And the doctor who did lost his license. Regardless of her role, the hitjob in her was off base to say least.

    3. Denver1947 Guest

      Is she anymore bipolar than a significant portion of other Delta pilots? I doubt it. Please ask me how I know.

    4. Stu Guest

      I would hope you’d have good cause for your point of view. Doing the research: if you believe she was rightly removed from flight status, can you shed light on why:
      • An administrative tribunal panel ruled in her favor and penalized Delta with 5 times higher than any prior compensatory damages determining that Delta failed to provide clear and convincing evidence of why they put her through a psychiatric evaluation and found they...

      I would hope you’d have good cause for your point of view. Doing the research: if you believe she was rightly removed from flight status, can you shed light on why:
      • An administrative tribunal panel ruled in her favor and penalized Delta with 5 times higher than any prior compensatory damages determining that Delta failed to provide clear and convincing evidence of why they put her through a psychiatric evaluation and found they engaged in an adverse employment action with discriminatory intent
      • The US Labor Department essentially supported the administrative tribunal’s findings
      • A Mayo Clinic psychiatric panel determined she had no diagnosis and felt so strongly about their findings that they went so far as to make the following statement: “This [diagnosis] has been a puzzle for our group – the evidence does not support presence of a psychiatric diagnosis but does support an organizational/corporate effort to remove this pilot from the rolls. … years ago in the military, it was not unusual for female pilots and air crew to be the target for such an effort.”
      • A third party tie breaker psychiatrist determined there was no mental health diagnosis
      • The psychiatrist working with Delta was lost his license
      • Petitt flew commercial jets for 35 years, raised three children, earned a doctorate and two master’s degrees and wrote a series of books, all while performing satisfactorily as a pilot, including recently being rated on Airbus A-350’s – all factors inconsistent with a bipolar presentation.
      • Finally, her responses in the testimony she gave during the hearing shows no signs of manic behavior in her replies (see—> https://www.ssmplaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/PETITT4.pdf)

      All the evidence and outcome points strongly against your position.

  17. snic Diamond

    “We made a business decision to settle the matter rather than appeal a decision that we disagreed with. Delta’s fitness for duty testing process for pilots is in place to ensure safety and it works.”

    Translation: "We refuse to apologize or lift a finger to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. Pilots had better stay in their lane or else."

  18. George Romey Guest

    What we don't know where these legitimate concerns or was she being a typical Karen. That doesn't excuse the way DL handled the situation.

  19. Stu Guest

    Dr. Petitt's dissertation seems to demonstrate rigor and gravitas from a bonafide university (Embry Riddle Aeronautical University). It points to safety culture (well established as a factor in airline accidents) within the larger corporate organization as a factor that needs attention in pilot training. Delta could have done a 180 on this and embraced her "whistleblowing" by appointing her as a consultant to a larger body willing to look at critical organizational variables instead of...

    Dr. Petitt's dissertation seems to demonstrate rigor and gravitas from a bonafide university (Embry Riddle Aeronautical University). It points to safety culture (well established as a factor in airline accidents) within the larger corporate organization as a factor that needs attention in pilot training. Delta could have done a 180 on this and embraced her "whistleblowing" by appointing her as a consultant to a larger body willing to look at critical organizational variables instead of mounting a campaign against her. Their actions serve to underscore her point. Read her dissertation here --> https://petittaviationresearch.com

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Like what @Tim Dunn said, "The process cost Delta a whole lot less than the actual damages as well as for the doctor."

      Silencing the issue cost a few million, fixing the whole TechOps probably a few hundred million.

      It takes a significant catastrophe to fix these issues. If MCAS didn't bring down planes already, do you think Boeing will fix the issue or they would rather sell 500+ MAX in the last 3 years.

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Stu,
      do you realize that ALPA, which represents DL pilots, is actively engaged in aviation safety and works well not just w/ DL but also with each of its US member airlines? She chose not to work through ALPA channels but to take it upon herself to make recommendations that her own union did not review or endorse.
      She was hired as a line pilot and worked on a contract to do that...

      Stu,
      do you realize that ALPA, which represents DL pilots, is actively engaged in aviation safety and works well not just w/ DL but also with each of its US member airlines? She chose not to work through ALPA channels but to take it upon herself to make recommendations that her own union did not review or endorse.
      She was hired as a line pilot and worked on a contract to do that job, not serve as a safety researcher or consultant. If she wanted to do another job, she needed to work through the appropriate channels to make that happen.
      Second, do you realize that she had recommendations about commuting pilots which most definitely would have affected not just thousands of her fellow DL pilots but even more across the industry. the FAA, NTSB, and ALPA have all reviewed the issue of commuting and do not see a need to change what she recommended at this time.
      Third, she used confidential, internal company and union data without permission to benefit herself. No company should or will allow employees to get by with that.

      She makes more in retirement than the vast majority of working Americans. She, Delta and ALPA are better off that she is gone.

    3. Stu Guest

      Really. You may know more about the particular of the culture/players but readily available in the public domain. the administrative panel ruling found Delta Air Lines was guilty of having used a compulsory psychiatric examination as a “weapon” against Dr. Petitt after she raised safety issues related to the airline’s flight operations. She submitted a 43-page safety report to Delta Senior Vice President of Flight Steven Dickson (served as Trump administration’s FAA Administrator) and Vice...

      Really. You may know more about the particular of the culture/players but readily available in the public domain. the administrative panel ruling found Delta Air Lines was guilty of having used a compulsory psychiatric examination as a “weapon” against Dr. Petitt after she raised safety issues related to the airline’s flight operations. She submitted a 43-page safety report to Delta Senior Vice President of Flight Steven Dickson (served as Trump administration’s FAA Administrator) and Vice President of Flying Operations Jim Graham. Her report raised issues concerning: pilot fatigue, pilot training, pilot training records, and Delta’s failure to properly maintain its FAA-mandated Safety Management Systems (SMS) program. An administrative judge characterized her stated safety concerns as “prudent and reasonable.” Her psychiatric diagnosis was subsequently rejected by both the Mayo Clinic and a third “tie-breaker” psychiatrist. She was awarded compensatory damages of $500,000 – five times the highest previously recorded award under the whistleblower statute – in recognition of the “severe emotional toll this took on her wellbeing. Delta was found to have weaponized the use of the psychiatric diagnosis process for the purposes of obtaining blind compliance by its pilots out of a sense of fear that they can ruin their careers. The administrative ruling suggests that Delta had a suppressive management culture, belying their stated “open-door” policy. Interesting but not surprising how many posters are quick to assume the whistleblower must be the problem. . This person cared enough to risk her 40-year career, most recently flying A-350s. The burden should be on the organization to show due diligence that they made every effort to review and incorporate her input, not the other way around. Whistleblowing is a form of organizational dissent that typically leads to disaster for the whistleblower.

    4. jallan Member

      Fine, then you fire her for not following proper procedures, or misuse of confidential information, or something legitimate You don't go trumping up that she has a psychiatric problem rendering her unfit to fly.

  20. Ken Guest

    I was about to say we'll wait for Tim Dunn, but he has already replied

  21. SamB Gold

    Diagnosing her as bipolar because she's "too accomplished" for a woman is straight out of the 1950s. WTF. Pretty damning that the 9-person panel at the Mayo Clinic thought she had no psychiatric disorder whatsoever and Delta was engaging in a smear campaign. Glad the doctor lost his medical license. Regardless of what you think of her tactics, NOTHING justifies falsely labeling her with a career-ending diagnosis.

  22. Courtney Guest

    You seem to imply that she used insider information to write a public thesis. I can only presume that this violated some contractual aspect and delta should have attacked that rather than a false diagnosis.

    1. snic Diamond

      But that is not what Delta told her when they fired her.

  23. JetSetFly Guest

    Sounds like some heads at Delta should have rolled but didn’t. Until that actually happened, whistleblowers are never protected. 500k isn’t that much money for Delta. Make it 500 million, then shareholders will make heads roll and cover ups will less likely to happen.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      damages have to reflect actual damages and not just for punitive purposes unless it is clear that Delta acted repeatedly or willfully to that end.
      And I believe she retired which means that Delta does still bear costs including via funding some of her retiree benefits.

    2. jallan Member

      From the article: The judge overseeing the case ruled it “improper for [Delta] to weaponize this process for the purposes of obtaining blind compliance by its pilots." I admittedly have done no further research on this, but if that's what the Judge said then punitive damages seem appropriate.

  24. DLPTATL Guest

    Bizarre story, I'm sure there's much more to it than can be gleamed from this OMAAT article. Sounds like a no fault settlement and a parting of ways is probably the best resolution.

  25. Tim Dunn Diamond

    There are clearly parts of this story that have not been included and it is important to know those parts.
    Delta's primary goal was to silence someone that very aggressively attacked the way the company operated and do so outside of company channels.
    The process cost Delta a whole lot less than the actual damages as well as for the doctor.

    She simply had ideas that she wasn't willing to vet through...

    There are clearly parts of this story that have not been included and it is important to know those parts.
    Delta's primary goal was to silence someone that very aggressively attacked the way the company operated and do so outside of company channels.
    The process cost Delta a whole lot less than the actual damages as well as for the doctor.

    She simply had ideas that she wasn't willing to vet through union leadership - of which she was a member - as well as through company channels.

    It doesn't harm Delta any more than happens with any other rogue employee faces at any other large organization.

    She might be completely correct but she needed to leave Delta to pursue her ideas at the FAA, NTSB and unions. Her job inside Delta was not a place to push her agenda.

    1. Stvr Guest

      I had to reread this comment a few times as I was shocked someone actually wrote it. Now I need a shower

    2. Eskimo Guest

      Just like what happen to Tim Dunn at Delta?
      Or did your big fat settlement included an NDA.

    3. Teo Guest

      Exactly.
      She was doing a doctorate so she probably lost the grasp that whatever fancy ideas they cook up in "academic exercises" cannot be practically applied to a real business.

    4. Avery Witherspoon Guest

      You heard it from Tim Dunn. If you are a Delta employee who has actual concerns about aircraft safety, you are a rogue employee and should quit your job.

    5. Tim Dunn Diamond

      no, you completely failed to grasp not just what I wrote but also what others said.
      There is a valid process not just at Delta but at other airlines. But there is a point at which you have to realize you are an employee first and you have to convince management that you are right and they are wrong.
      She was told by mgmt that they did not agree with her conclusions, she...

      no, you completely failed to grasp not just what I wrote but also what others said.
      There is a valid process not just at Delta but at other airlines. But there is a point at which you have to realize you are an employee first and you have to convince management that you are right and they are wrong.
      She was told by mgmt that they did not agree with her conclusions, she lost it, and she got pushed out.

      And, once again, she has not succeeded at what she set out to do - so did she really win anything?

    6. Maryland Guest

      Apparently she did win. Judge & appeals agreed. Delta finally quit wanting to appeal. But no, sadly her settlement was short of her egregious treatment and over six years of her life. Can anyone imagine suffering that?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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SamB Gold

Diagnosing her as bipolar because she's "too accomplished" for a woman is straight out of the 1950s. WTF. Pretty damning that the 9-person panel at the Mayo Clinic thought she had no psychiatric disorder whatsoever and Delta was engaging in a smear campaign. Glad the doctor lost his medical license. Regardless of what you think of her tactics, NOTHING justifies falsely labeling her with a career-ending diagnosis.

6
Ari Guest

Reading some of these comments, I think it is very important to put Delta's actions in perspective. Irrespective of what one thinks of Petitt's 'whistleblowing' activities-- whatever they were and whatever merit they had or didn't have-- Delta's response was not to discipline her within whatever proper process or processes were in place to handle such matters. Delta decided to call in a hired-gun quack who lost his medical license in part, essentially for selling it to Delta-- for giving Delta what it wanted instead of an honest, objective medical opinion, in the very case we're talking about. This is just like the United Airlines 'Chairman's Flight' on a lower dollar scale-- just pay off a licensed official to get whatever you want to avoid going through an actual process or procedure that is ordinarily required.

5
snic Diamond

“We made a business decision to settle the matter rather than appeal a decision that we disagreed with. Delta’s fitness for duty testing process for pilots is in place to ensure safety and it works.” Translation: "We refuse to apologize or lift a finger to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. Pilots had better stay in their lane or else."

5
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