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Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Whistleblower Protection for Employees under the National Transit Systems Security Act

1. Employees and Employers Covered

Under the National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA), employees of public transportation agencies and their contractors and subcontractors may file complaints with the Secretary of Labor if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for reporting an alleged violation of any federal law, rule, or regulation relating to public transportation safety or security, or fraud, waste, or abuse of federal grants or other public funds intended to be used for public transportation safety or security; reporting hazardous safety or security conditions; refusing to violate or assist in the violation of any federal law, rule, or regulation relating to public transportation safety or security; or refusing to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or security condition related to the performance of the employee’s duties (under imminent danger circumstances).

2. Protected Activities

Other than the protection provided to employees for reporting violations of the act, an employee’s refusal to work in hazardous conditions is protected when it is made in good faith and no reasonable alternative to the refusal is available to the employee. A reasonable individual may receive protection when he or she concludes that: the hazardous condition presents an imminent danger of death or serious injury, the urgency of the situation does not allow sufficient time to eliminate the danger without such refusal, and the employee, where possible, has notified the public transportation agency of the existence of the hazardous condition and the intention to not perform further work.

3. Proving Your Case

Any person who believes that he or she was discharged or otherwise discriminated against in violation of this section may file within 180 days after the date on which the violation occurs. After receiving the complaint, the Secretary of Labor shall notify, in writing, the person named in the complaint of the allegations contained in the complaint, of the substance of evidence supporting the complaint, and the opportunities to be afforded to such person.

The Secretary shall dismiss a complaint unless the complainant makes a prima facie showing that any of the protected behavior was a contributing factor in the unfavorable personnel action alleged in the complaint. The complainant must also demonstrate through clear and convincing evidence that the employer would not have acted otherwise but for retaliation for whistleblowing.

4. Available Remedies

If the Secretary finds that the employer committed a violation of this statute, the Secretary shall order the employer to: take affirmative action to abate the violation, reinstate the complainant to his or her former position together with compensation (including back pay) and restore the terms, conditions, and privileges associated with his or her employment, and to provide compensatory damages. Punitive damages may be awarded up to $250,000.

5. Time to File: Within 180 days of the incident.

If you believe that you have a whistleblower claim under this Act, please contact an attorney at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.