Enforcement agreement between the FAA and OSHA

People in Wisconsin may want to know about a recent agreement reached by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agreement, outlined in a memorandum of understanding, defines the roles and duties of each agency in enforcing a federal safety law for air carriers.

The agreement concerns the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, or Air21, which is codified at 49 U.S.C. §42121. This act provides protection to whistleblowers who alert the FAA about safety problems and other concerns at the carriers for whom they work.

Under the memorandum of understanding, OSHA and the FAA will work together to strengthen enforcement of the whistleblower protection under Air21. OSHA has agreed to immediately notify the FAA about any whistleblower retaliation complaints made by employees. OSHA will also share all reports of investigation with the FAA. If an employee notifies the FAA of such problems, the FAA will notify OSHA and similarly provide reports. The FAA is also to notify any whistleblower who has suffered retaliation that there is a 90-day statutory deadline to file a complaint under Air21.

Because of public policy, the government actively provides protection if a whistleblower comes forward with information about an employer that is violating the law. If the employer then retaliates against an employee for providing information or cooperating with an ensuing investigation, the worker may be able to file a qui tam lawsuit against the employer. Employees who are whistleblowers and who are the victims of retaliatory action may want to meet with an employment law attorney as soon as possible. The law provides short deadlines during which such complaints may be filed.

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