FAA, OSHA Agree to Protect Flight Attendant Whistleblowers

March 29, 2002
Flight attendants are whistling a happier tune since the FAA and OSHA agreed to grant them whistleblower protections.

Flight attendants are whistling a happier tune these days.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining the process for whistleblower protections to be granted to flight attendants and other aviation workers.

"Whistleblower protections for employees are vitally important to the safety and security of our aviation system," says Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, which represents some 50,000 flight attendants. "An employee's ability to report a potentially dangerous problem without fear of retribution from management is an essential component in a truly secure system."

The MOU, signed on March 11, provides a framework for the whistleblower system. In the event of discrimination resulting from a worker's report, the FAA must investigate the safety complaint and share the information with OSHA. The FAA must also provide the worker with the local address and phone number of the nearest OSHA office and advise the individual that the law requires that formal complaints must be filed with OSHA within 90 days of the date the discrimination occurred. In the event of an employee complaint of discrimination, OSHA may require the employer to reinstate the worker with back pay and compensatory damages.

Some aviation workers are not given whistleblower protections. Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that the newly federalized security screening workforce will not be protected when they report security or safety problems.

"The TSA is setting a dangerous precedent by denying the security screeners whistleblower protections," Friend says. "Screeners are an integral part of the security of our aviation system. Whistleblower protections would allow the workers to report potentially deadly flaws in the system without fearing for their jobs. This is a necessary step to ensure the government is doing all it can to raise the level of security at our nation's airports and on our aircraft."

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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