The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday ordered AirTran Airways to reinstate a former pilot who was fired after a sudden spike in the number of mechanical problems he reported.

The agency also is requiring the airline to pay more than $1 million to the pilot in back wages, plus interest and compensatory damages.

OSHA officials say an investigation found reasonable cause to believe the airline violated whistleblower protection laws when it terminated the pilot in 2007.

"Retaliating against a pilot for reporting mechanical malfunctions is not consistent with a company that values the safety of its workers and customers," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels.

AirTran spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said the company would not comment on an ongoing regulatory investigation.

Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran is a subsidiary of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. Southwest acquired the company in May 2011.

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