FAA

Austin Lawyers Helping Whistleblowers Report Workplace Safety Violations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) works with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to improve workplace safety on airlines. The FAA regulates aviation safety, while OSHA is able to enforce some standards that are not covered by the FAA. If you are an airline employee or another employee who is concerned about workplace safety on flights, you should consult an Austin workplace safety attorney about filing a claim with the FAA or OSHA. At Wiley Walsh, P.C., our experienced litigators represent airline and aircraft workers in whistleblowing, retaliation, and other employment litigation.

Filing a Complaint with the FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has authority under 49 U.S.C. § 44701 and related statutory sections to issue regulations about aviation and flight safety. OSHA has statutory authority over the occupational safety and health of employees in situations that are not covered by FAA regulations, as well as claims of retaliation made as a result of a safety complaint to the FAA. The two agencies work together.

The FAA regulations apply to working conditions of employees on aircraft while it is being operated. An aircraft is considered to be operational and under the jurisdiction of FAA comprehensive rules from the time that a crewmember first boards and prepares for the flight to the time that the last crewmember gets off the aircraft after the flight is completed. Time in operation includes stops on the ground during which at least one crewmember stays on the aircraft, even though the engines are not running.

You can submit a safety complaint about a possible violation of federal standards, regulations, or orders to the FAA. The Office of Audit and Evaluation is supposed to review your complaint and assess the probability that there was a violation. This complaint can be submitted through an electronic complaint form or by mail, and it must include identifying information about you and allegations related to safety violations.

The complaint is kept confidential from your employer, and the inspectors do not identify that a whistleblower investigation is occurring. However, if you decide to stay anonymous, you do not have the ability to bring an employment discrimination complaint, making it potentially helpful not only to disclose your identity but also to have the legal advice and representation of an attorney during this process.

Under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), it is illegal for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against an air carrier industry employee who reports information related to air carrier safety. The AIR21 Whistleblower Protection Program protects anyone who is an employee of a U.S. air carrier, its contractor, or its subcontractor.

If you are subjected to retaliation for providing information to your employer or the FAA or for assisting in a proceeding against your employer related to violations of FAA regulations, orders, or standards, you can file a complaint with OSHA for retaliation, discharge, or another type of adverse employment action. In order to qualify for protection, you will need to establish that the information that you reported was about a violation related to air carrier safety, and your employer took an adverse employment action against you because you reported the safety information. You must have a good faith belief that your safety concern was a violation of a federal law or FAA regulation, standard, or order that implicated safety and security on an air carrier, rather than personal safety.

Air carrier safety issues could involve noncompliance with flight and rest requirements, security breaches, falsification of records, improper maintenance practices, inadequate compliance with training, improper production of aircraft parts, crewmember medical qualifications, the use of aircraft parts that you suspect are not approved, or being told not to document aircraft maintenance discrepancies.

Actionable retaliation that you may face as a result of reporting a safety concern can include termination, harassment, intimidation, threats, warning letters, cuts in pay, suspension, demotion, or a change to a less favorable work schedule. Someone who believes that they have been terminated or subjected to retaliation in violation of a law can file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor. OSHA is supposed to investigate your complaint and can order the employer to take steps to abate the violation, reinstate you, and pay compensatory damages. FAA can issue civil penalties and revoke or suspend the certificate of the employer.

Get Advice on Your Options from a Whistleblower Lawyer in Austin

You have only 90 days from the date of the adverse action to file a complaint with OSHA. Therefore, you should seek legal representation as soon as possible. If you are concerned about workplace safety on an aircraft, consult our experienced Austin attorneys. You may be able to be reinstated and recover monetary damages. The whistleblower lawyers at Wiley Walsh, P.C. represent people in Austin, Georgetown, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Pflugerville, Leander, Del Valle, Kyle, San Marcos, San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Fredericksburg, among other cities. Call us at (512) 271-5527 or use our online form to schedule an appointment.

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