What is the Whistleblower Protection Program?

The Whistleblower Protection Program provides a process to allow air carrier industry employees to challenge being discharged or otherwise being discriminated against for providing information related to air carrier safety to their employer or the federal government.

Who is an Air Carrier Industry employee?

Air Carrier Industry employees include all employees of United States registered air carriers, contractors, and subcontractors of United States air carriers.

What are some examples of "discrimination?"

Discrimination can occur in many forms. The most common are: retaliation, threats, reprisals, reprimands, intimidation, and/or discharge.

What is "information related to air carrier safety?"

Information must relate to a violation of any FAA Order, regulation, or standard.

What is an "Air Carrier Contractor?"

An Air Carrier Contractor is a company that performs safety sensitive functions by contract for an air carrier.

What is an "Air Carrier Subcontractor?"

An Air Carrier Subcontractor is a company that performs safety sensitive functions by contract to a contractor of an air carrier.

Who enforces the law?

The Administrator of FAA and the Secretary of Labor (DOL) have joint and independent responsibilities for the enforcement of the Whistleblower Protection Program.

The FAA is responsible for investigating the air carrier safety aspects of a complaint.

The DOL is responsible for investigating the discrimination aspects of a complaint.

I am an employee of an air carrier. If I know my employer is compromising air carrier safety in some way and I blow the whistle on them, can they discriminate against me?

Your employer cannot legally discriminate against you. However, the investigation under the Whistleblower Protection Program occurs after an employer has discriminated against an employee.

An air carrier, or contractor or subcontractor of an air carrier, may not discharge you or in any other way discriminate against you, an employee, because you did or are about to do one of the following eight actions:

  1. Provided to the Federal Government or to your employer information relating to any violation of any order, regulation, or standard of FAA or any other provision of Federal law relating to air carrier safety;
  2. Caused to be provided to the Federal Government or your employer information relating to any violation of any order, regulation, or standard of FAA or any other provision of Federal law relating to air carrier safety;
  3. Are about to provide to the Federal Government or your employer information relating to any violation of any order, regulation, or standard of FAA or any other provision of Federal law relating to air carrier safety;
  4. Filed a proceeding relating to any violation of any order, regulation, or standard of FAA or any other provision of Federal law relating to air carrier safety;
  5. Caused to be filed a proceeding relating to any violation of any order, regulation, or standard of FAA or any other provision of Federal law relating to air carrier safety;
  6. Are about to file or cause to be filed a proceeding relating to any violation of any order, regulation, or standard of FAA or any other provision of Federal law relating to air carrier safety;
  7. Testified or are about to testify in a proceeding relating to any violation of any order, regulation, or standard of FAA or any other provision of Federal law relating to air carrier safety; or
  8. Assisted or participated in, or are about to assist or participate in, a proceeding relating to any violation of any order, regulation, or standard of FAA or any other provision of Federal law relating to air carrier safety.

Be aware that your protection under the Whistleblower Protection Program occurs only after the fact of discrimination. Submitting a complaint to OSHA or the FAA does not provide you with any special status that your company must honor. They must honor the law. If they do discriminate against you, then you must submit your complaint to OSHA for their determination if you were discriminated against because of your actions in any of the above eight categories.

Do I need a lawyer to assist in filing a Whistleblower Protection Program complaint?

You can obtain legal counsel at any time to assist you in understanding the process and your rights under the Whistleblower Protection Program (AIR21). The systems for both OSHA and the FAA are designed so that you do not require legal counsel to file a complaint.

What should I do if I know of a violation?

You should immediately report it to the nearest FAA Flight Standards District Office. Keep a record of the date and time of your report as well as to whom you spoke. You can find a link to the FAA Flight Standards District Offices by state and/or city on the faa.gov web site.

What should I do if I am discharged or otherwise discriminated against for reporting a violation?

Within 90 days after learning of the discrimination, you (or another person at your request) may file a complaint with the United States Department of Labor. The Secretary of Labor has delegated the authority to receive discrimination complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Filing your complaint with any federal OSHA officer or employee is sufficient, according to 29 CFR 1978.102 Filing of discrimination complaint. Tell them that you are filing an AIR21 Whistleblower complaint. You can find links to how to file a complaint on the osha.gov web site.

What should I do if I learned of my discharge or discrimination more than 90 days ago?

You may still file your complaint (or another person at your request may file your complaint) with OSHA, but the OSHA Area Director may decline your complaint as untimely.

You can still submit an air carrier safety issue to the FAA beyond the 90 days, but there are a variety of timeliness issues for the FAA to address in enforcing an air carrier safety violation.

What should I include in my complaint?

You must include the following five items in your FAA complaint (OSHA has an incoming complaint checklist which they will fill out on your behalf):

  1. Your name, address, and telephone number
  2. Your understanding of the specific order, regulation, or standard of FAA, that you believe has been violated
  3. The name and location of the company which discharged or otherwise discriminated against you; their status as an air carrier, air carrier contractor or subcontractor; and the date you became aware of the discrimination
  4. The specific safety issue you reported to your company or to the FAA
  5. Specific details relating to the safety issue:
    • People involved
    • Aircraft tail numbers
    • Dates and times of the event(s)
    • Witness list
    • Sufficient details to allow the FAA inspectors to prove a violation of a regulation, order, or standard