The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or the “MAP-21 Act” was signed into law on July 6, 2012.  This law regarding our highway and other surface transportation systems contains various funding and regulatory provisions.  Among other issues, MAP-21 focuses on enhancing highway safety.

Consistent with that focus, MAP-21 establishes an anti-retaliation whistleblowing provision that protects employees of motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships who provide their employer or the Secretary of Transportation with information relating to “any motor vehicle defect, noncompliance, or any violation or alleged violation of any notification or reporting requirement” enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  MAP-21’s whistleblowing provisions also protect employees who file or participate in a proceeding involving such matters or who object to, or refuse to participate in, any activity in violation of 49 U.S.C. ch. 301.

MAP-21 whistleblowing complaints are to be filed with the Department of Labor’s OSHA division for investigation and resolution.  Possible remedies include reinstatement, compensatory damages, and payment of attorney fees and other costs reasonably incurred by the employee.  If it is determined that an employee has brought a frivolous or bad faith complaint, the employer may be awarded a reasonable attorney fee not exceeding $1,000.00.

Takeaway:  The Map-21 whistleblower provision is a new addition to a variety of other whistleblower laws enforced by OSHA.  Motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships should take seriously any employee reports or complaints protected by MAP-21 and take no retaliatory acts against the employee in response.