From our offices in the Detroit area, Akeel & Valentine, PLC serves clients nationwide.

From our offices in the Detroit area, Akeel & Valentine, PLC serves clients nationwide.

Understanding the AIR 21 whistleblower statute

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Whistleblower

If you are an aviation industry employee with concerns about safety violations or fraud within your company, you may have heard of the AIR 21 whistleblower statute. This law provides important protections for employees who report certain violations by their employers.

Formally known as the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, AIR 21 allows you to speak your mind without fear of retaliation.

Which employees does AIR 21 protect?

AIR 21 applies to air carriers who hold an operating certificate under 49 U.S.C. § 44705 and aircraft manufacturers and designers under 49 U.S.C. § 44704. It also protects contractors, subcontractors and suppliers whose job relates to aviation safety.

What types of violations does it include?

AIR 21 comes into play in cases of the following types of federal aviation regulations:

  • Falsifying maintenance records
  • Neglecting safety procedures
  • Releasing hazardous materials improperly

It also pertains to any fraudulent activities related to the above or to aviation safety in general.

How does it protect whistleblowers?

One of the key aspects of AIR 21 is its protection from retaliation. Someone who reports a violation covered by AIR 21 receives protection from firing, demotion and other types of employer discrimination in response to the report. The law extends to employees who assist in investigations or testify in related proceedings.

How do employees report a violation?

Workers can report violations to the Federal Aviation Administration or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They do not have to attempt to resolve their grievances internally before filing complaints. AIR 21 protects whistleblowers regardless of whether they first report their concerns internally or directly to the appropriate regulatory agency.

What happens after someone files a report?

The FAA or OSHA will investigate the claim. If they find that an employer has violated AIR 21, they may take enforcement action against the company. If workers believe they have faced retaliation for their reports, they can file a complaint with OSHA, which will investigate the claim and take action to remedy any retaliation that occurred.

The purpose of AIR 21 is to encourage employees to report safety violations and fraud without fear of retaliation and it provides protections for whistleblowers who make such reports in good faith. However, according to 49 U.S.C. § 42121 (b)(1), an employee must contact OSHA within 90 days of experiencing retaliation. Otherwise, a judge may dismiss the case.