The DOL and FAA both play a critical role in enforcing the whistleblower protection provision of AIR21. FAA has responsibility to investigate complaints related to air carrier safety and has authority under the FAA’s statute to enforce air safety regulations and issue sanctions to airmen and air carriers for noncompliance with these regulations. FAA enforcement action may include air carrier and/or airman certificate suspension and/or revocation and/or the imposition of civil penalties. Additionally, FAA may issue civil penalties for violations of 49 U.S.C. § 42121. OSHA has the responsibility to investigate employee complaints of discrimination and may order a violator to take affirmative action to abate the violation, reinstate the complainant to his or her former position with back pay, and award compensatory damages, including attorney fees.
Under the MOU, OSHA will promptly notify FAA of any AIR21 whistleblower retaliation complaints and will provide the FAA with all investigative findings and preliminary orders, investigation reports, and orders associated with any hearing or administrative appeal related to the complaint. And when a whistleblower notifies the FAA of retaliation involving air carrier safety, the FAA will promptly provide OSHA with a copy of the complaint and will advise the whistleblower that an AIR21 complaint must be filed with OSHA within 90 days of the retaliation. And the FAA will provide OSHA with the general results of any investigation conducted, to include whether or not FAA concluded there was a violation of a federal regulation, order, or standard relating to air carrier safety.