The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have once again teamed up to coordinate efforts in enforcing a federal air carrier safety law. These agencies recently released a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the purpose of which “is to facilitate coordination and cooperation concerning the protection of employees who provide air safety information under . . . 49 U.S.C. § 42121,” the whistleblower protection provision of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21).  This agreement replaces a previous MOU between the agencies dated March 22, 2002, but the agencies’ other previous MOU, from August 26, 2014, remains intact.
Continue Reading OSHA Further Enlists the Help of the FAA in its Enforcement of Air Safety Whistleblower Provision

On November 30, 2015 the DOT issued its final rule prohibiting coercion of commercial drivers, which expands the current whistle-blowing provisions jointly administered by the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation via a Memo of Understanding issued last year. The main point of expansion is that now a covered driver is protected not only from discharge, discipline or discrimination for engaging in certain protected activities (focusing on safety regulations issued for this industry), but it now includes “coercion” of such drivers not only as to safety violations, but also as to any violations of commercial regulations that would apply to “motor carriers, shippers, receivers or transportation intermediaries.” The regulations are quite vague regarding what “coercion” shall consist of, stating the DOT will investigate any “non-frivolous” claim that a motor carrier, shipper, receiver or transportation intermediary, or their respective agents, officers, or representatives, have threatened to or actually withheld business, employment or work opportunities from, or taken any adverse employment action against, a driver in order to induce the driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle under conditions in which the driver would be required to violate one or more of the regulations that are codified within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
Continue Reading DOT Expands Potential Liability in the Area of Commercial Truck Driving

The U.S. Supreme Court extended the whistle-blower protections provided in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to include employees of privately held companies that are contractors or subcontractors of a public company.  The high court’s ruling in Lawson v. FMR LLC, marks a significant expansion of the statute and opens the door for claims of a new class of workers from roughly 5,000 public companies to potentially 6 million private ones, including even the smallest “Mom and Pop” businesses.
Continue Reading High Court Blows the Whistle on Private Employers

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (“STAA”) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against truck drivers for reporting safety violations. 29 U.S.C. § 31105. The STAA also protects an employee from termination for refusing to operate a motor vehicle that violates a safety regulation or because the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to him or herself or the public due to an unsafe condition with the vehicle. To obtain protection under the latter section, the employee must have requested that the employer fix the unsafe condition. 
Continue Reading Whistleblower Law Protects Truck Drivers Who Report Safety Violations