Whistleblower Protection and Award Provisions in the Transportation Sector

Statute & Citation Coverage Remedies
National Transit System Security Act (NTSSA), 6 U.S.C. § 1142 NTSSA covers employees of a public transportation agency or its contractors or subcontractors if the public transportation agency provides regular and continuing general or special transportation to the public (e.g., public subway, commuter rail or bus systems). Employees of providers of school bus, charter, or sightseeing transportation are not covered, but may be covered by other federal or state laws.

Employees are protected for providing information to, causing information to be provided to, or assisting in an investigation by a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency, a member or committee of Congress, or their company about an alleged violation of federal laws and regulations related to public transportation safety and security, or about fraud, waste or abuse of funds intended for public transportation safety or security.[3]

Preliminary reinstatement (if favorable investigation); reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had, but for the discrimination; back pay, with interest; and compensatory damages, including compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.

In addition, relief may include punitive damages in an amount not to exceed $250,000.

 

Wendell H. Ford Investment and Reform Act for 21st Century (AIR21) , 49 U.S.C. § 42121

 

Under AIR21, an employee of an air carrier or its contractors or subcontractors is protected from retaliation for reporting alleged violations of federal laws related to aviation safety.

“Air carrier” is defined as a citizen of the United States undertaking by any means, directly or indirectly, to provide air transportation. It does not include foreign air carriers. “Contractor” is defined as a company that performs a safety-sensitive function by contract for an air carrier.[4]

Preliminary reinstatement (if favorable investigation); permanent reinstatement; back pay with interest, restore the terms, conditions, and privileges associated with his or her employment; compensatory damages; and all costs and expenses (including attorneys’ and expert witness fees) reasonably incurred.

 

Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. § 20109

 

 

FRSA covers employees of railroad carriers and employees of a contractor or subcontractor of a railroad carrier.

An employee engages in protected activity if s/he provided information to, caused information to be provided to, or assisted in an investigation by a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency, a member or committee of Congress, or your company about an alleged violation of federal laws and regulations related to railroad safety and security, or about gross fraud, waste or abuse of funds intended for railroad safety or security.

Covered employees are also protected if they filed, caused to be filed, participated in, or assisted in a proceeding under one of the federal laws related to railroad safety/security. In addition, employees are protected from retaliation for reporting hazardous safety or security conditions, reporting a work-related injury or illness, refusing to work under certain conditions, or refusing to authorize the use of any safety- or security-related equipment, track or structures. Employees may also be covered if they were perceived as having engaged in the activities described above.[5]

Preliminary reinstatement (if favorable investigation); reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had, but for the discrimination; back pay, with interest; and compensatory damages, including compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.

In addition, relief may include punitive damages in an amount not to exceed $250,000.

 

Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), 49 U.S.C. § 31105 STAA covers private sector drivers (including independent contractors while personally operating a commercial motor vehicle) and other employees of commercial motor carriers (including mechanics and freight handlers). To qualify for coverage, employees must be involved in activities directly affecting commercial motor vehicle safety or security. A commercial motor vehicle covered by STAA is defined as any self-propelled or towed vehicle used on the highway in commerce principally to transport cargo or passengers. To qualify for coverage, such a vehicle must also:

Have a vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds (whichever is greater); or,
Be designed to transport more than 10 passengers, including the driver; or,
Transport materials deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Transportation in a quantity requiring placarding (posting) under applicable regulations.[6]

Preliminary reinstatement (if favorable investigation); permanent reinstatement; back pay with interest, restore the terms, conditions, and privileges associated with his or her employment; compensatory damages; and all costs and expenses (including attorneys’ and expert witness fees) reasonably incurred.

 

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), 49 U.S.C. § 30171

 

 

MAP21 protects employees of motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships from retaliation for:

• providing information relating to any motor vehicle defect or alleged violations of applicable law, including NHTSA vehicle safety standards and the federal reporting requirements for auto manufacturers, to:

−−his or her employer (including auto manufacturers, parts suppliers and dealerships), or

−−the U.S. Dept. of Transportation

• filing, testifying, assisting, or participating in a proceeding concerning any motor vehicle defect or alleged violation of applicable law, including NHTSA vehicle safety standards and the federal reporting requirements for auto manufacturers, or

• objecting to or refusing to participate in any activity that he or she reasonably believed to be in violation of 49 U.S.C. §§ 301-354 or any order, rule, regulation, standard, or ban under Chapter 301.[7]

Preliminary reinstatement (if favorable investigation); permanent reinstatement; back pay with interest, restore the terms, conditions, and privileges associated with his or her employment; compensatory damages; and all costs and expenses (including attorneys’ and expert witness fees) reasonably incurred.

 

Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA), 49 U.S.C. § 60129

 

Employees of owners, operators, contractors or subcontractors of pipeline facilities are protected when they provide information to their employer or the Federal Government relating to any violation or alleged violation of any order, regulation, or standard under this chapter [49 U.S.C. §§ 60101 et seq.] or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety.   Employees are also protected when they refuse to engage in an unlawful practice, testify before Congress or in any Federal or State proceeding, or commence or are about to commence or cause to be commence, or assist in such a proceeding.[8] Preliminary reinstatement (if favorable investigation); permanent reinstatement; back pay with interest, restore the terms, conditions, and privileges associated with his or her employment; compensatory damages; and all costs and expenses (including attorneys’ and expert witness fees) reasonably incurred.

 

Seaman’s Protection Act(SPA), 46 U.S.C. § 2114 (SPA), 46 U.S.C. § 2114

 

SPA prohibits persons from retaliating against seamen for engaging in certain protected activities pertaining to compliance with maritime safety laws and regulations, including reporting maritime safety issues to the U.S. Coast Guard and/or any other federal agency.

A seaman is any individual engaged or employed in any capacity on board a vessel owned by a citizen of the United States.[9]

Preliminary reinstatement (if favorable investigation); permanent reinstatement; back pay with interest, restore the terms, conditions, and privileges associated with his or her employment; compensatory damages; and all costs and expenses (including attorneys’ and expert witness fees) reasonably incurred.

Taking the Next Step

If you believe that you have evidence or information indicating fraud or illegality in public transit, contact us. Similarly, if you believe you have been retaliated against for reporting your evidence, we would be happy to talk with you.