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8900.1 CHG 607

VOLUME 11  FLIGHT STANDARDS PROGRAMS

CHAPTER 3  WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION PROGRAM (AIR CARRIER)

Section 3  Complaint Processing

11-143    FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) PROCESSING.

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A.    Who the Whistleblower Protection Program (WBPP) Covers. The FAA processes WBPP complaints from employees of air carriers, their contractors, or subcontractors. Normally, complaints are received from the electronic complaint form on the FAA WBPP website, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offices, or Department of Transportation (DOT)/Office of the Inspector General (OIG) offices. Complaints may be submitted by the complainant or by any person on behalf of the complainant with the complainant’s knowledge and authority.

B.    Complainant Requirements. The FAA national WBPP screens complaints for the following statutorily required elements:

1)    Complainant must be a covered employee.
2)    Complainant must have been engaged in a protected activity as described in Title 49 of the United States Code (U.S.C) § 42121(a) (i.e., prior to the discrimination event, must have reported any violation or alleged violation of any FAA order, standard, or regulation, or any other provision of Federal law or any other law of the United States relating to air carrier safety to their employer or to the Federal Government).
3)    Complainant must reasonably believe that they have been discriminated against for engaging in the protected activity and be able to show that the employer had knowledge of the protected activity prior to the alleged discrimination.

NOTE:  Employees who want to “blow the whistle” about a safety concern but have not suffered an adverse work action as a result of their safety complaint should not file a WBPP complaint. Such complaints will be investigated as safety-only complaints. Nevertheless, investigators should advise complainants that the WBPP may be available to them if they perceive retaliation as a result of their air carrier-related safety allegation.

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C.    OSHA Coordination. If all required elements are present, the Audit and Evaluation Staff (AAE‑100) assigns an FAA WBPP tracking number to the complaint, forwards it to the Executive Director of Flight Standards, ATTN: Quality Control and Investigations Branch A, for investigation, prepares assignment and notification letters, and coordinates with OSHA.

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D.    Applicable Assignments. The Executive Director of Flight Standards, through Quality Control and Investigations Branch A, assigns the investigation to Quality Control and Investigations Branch B.

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E.    Investigation Assignments. Quality Control and Investigations Branch B assigns the investigation to the appropriate personnel for investigation.

F.    Safety Allegations. The assigned personnel investigate each safety allegation in the same manner they would investigate any other safety violation while taking special note of WBPP confidentiality requirements and the importance of contacting the complainant as expeditiously as possible.

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G.    Report of Investigation Memorandum. The investigating inspector prepares a memo from the manager of Quality Control and Investigations Branch B to the manager of Quality Control and Investigations Branch A, summarizing the results.

1)    Specify details including dates, names of persons interviewed, and whether the investigation findings substantiated the alleged violations. Include a statement that indicates what legal or administrative enforcement action is planned.
2)    If an Enforcement Investigative Report (EIR) is processed, summarize the violations and recommended sanctions.
3)    If administrative action is taken or contemplated, attach a copy of the administrative action letter.
4)    For legal enforcement action, Compliance Action (CA), or corrective action, cite the reference number.
5)    If no action is taken, explain why.

NOTE:  The certificate-holding district office (CHDO) will take the appropriate action, (e.g., EIR per FAA Order 2150.3, FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program; CA in accordance with the Compliance Philosophy (CP); or Safety Assurance (SA) corrective action) based on the WBPP investigation findings. The enforcement actions and CAs are Office of General Aviation Safety Assurance (AFG) and Office of Air Carrier Safety Assurance (AFC) functions because of the required follow-up surveillance/Safety Assurance System (SAS) oversight and Safety Management System (SMS) activities.

H.    Report of Investigation (ROI). The Quality Control and Investigations Branch B manager reviews the results for completeness of the investigation and sufficiency of the action taken.

1)    When the Quality Control and Investigations Branch B manager concurs, they will sign the ROI cover memo accompanying the report and forward the concurrence to Quality Control and Investigations Branch A.
2)    If the Quality Control and Investigations Branch B manager does not concur, the manager returns the report to the investigating inspector for further investigation, or clarification.
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3)    The ROI memo states what the investigation found, which violations were substantiated, and the concurrence of the Quality Control and Investigations Branch B manager. Attach the ROI to the memo.

I.    Time Extensions. Investigating inspectors requesting a time extension should contact Quality Control and Investigations Branch A, after conferring with management. Quality Control and Investigations Branch A will coordinate the request through AAE-100.

11-144    DEPARTMENT OF LABOR (DOL) PROCESSING. OSHA conducts an investigation of discrimination allegations while the FAA is investigating the alleged safety violation.

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    OSHA must determine whether the case has merit within 60 calendar-days of receipt of the complaint. OSHA dismisses the complaint if a prima facie case of discrimination has not been made.

    If a prima facie case has been made, OSHA may issue a preliminary order of abatement, reinstatement, and compensatory damages.

    OSHA may also offer a settlement between the parties at any time during the process.

    Once the DOL Order of Relief becomes final, the FAA may assess an additional civil penalty against the company for violating the whistleblower law.

RESERVED. Paragraphs 11-145 through 11-160.