Tucked into the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, was an amendment to the whistleblower protection provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, commonly known as AIR 21. AIR 21 is addressed in detail on our firm's website. The amendment was motivated by the illegal and fraudulent conduct of Boeing, and the complacency of the Federal Aviation Administration, which led to the deaths of hundreds of passengers in the 737 MAX aircraft.
Before this amendment became law, AIR 21 prohibited discrimination by air carriers, their contractors, and subcontractors. Thus, when employees terminated for reporting aviation safety or noncompliance issues pursued their rights under AIR 21, much discovery and litigation efforts would be spent on proving that specific parts were placed in commercial passenger planes. Under the new AIR 21, such litigation will no longer be necessary.
The 2021 CAA includes the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act (which begins at pdf page 1128). In Section 118 of this law, Congress scrapped the "air carrier and contractor" language from AIR 21's whistleblower retaliation provision and replaced it with language that prohibits all certificate holders under 49 U.S.C. 44704 and 44705, and their contractors and suppliers, from retaliating against employees who engage in activities protected by the statute.
Now, the law is clear that employees of companies that manufacture planes, and those in the supply chain, are protected from retaliation for voicing safety concerns to their employers or to the Federal Aviation Administration.
If you have questions about AIR 21 or the rights of employees of certificate holders, you should contact counsel. Don Peterson and Sean McGivern of Graybill & Hazlewood have successfully represented whistleblowers in many industries.
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