The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) implements strategies that aim to reduce vehicle-related fatalities, injuries, and financial losses. They accomplish this through accident investigation and analysis, regulatory recommendations, and safety compliance enforcement. The agency also relies on confidential information from employees and contractors within the automotive industry.
If an employee provides information that helps them with this vital work, the NHTSA Whistleblower Program rewards them for their assistance. As with any legal process, a witness must take the proper steps to submit the information. When a witness works with a Charleston NHTSA Whistleblower Program lawyer, they have an advocate to assist them in complying with the relevant submission guidelines.
This program encourages qualified individuals to share their knowledge about critical vehicle safety issues taking place in the auto industry. The NHTSA seeks original information about vehicle defects and violations of both the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and the Vehicle Safety Act.
To submit a valid report, a witness must meet NHTSA Whistleblower Program complaint criteria. Specifically, they must be a contractor or employee working for a vehicle manufacturer, parts supplier, or dealer, and they must voluntarily provide original information that no one has previously reported. It is also important that the information they provide is not subject to attorney/client privilege.
A witness always has the option of having an NHTSA whistleblower attorney represent them to protect their rights.
When someone makes a whistleblower report, NHTSA attorneys conduct an initial review to determine if the reported circumstances require further investigation. The reviewing attorney sometimes contacts the witness to discuss the submission or request additional information. They communicate with a witness’ NHTSA Whistleblower Program attorney if they have one.
The NHTSA encourages whistleblowers or their attorneys to report any additional information when it becomes available. If the NHTSA decides to move forward with an investigation, they do not inform the witness or provide regular updates. The whistleblower must check the Monthly Reports: Recalls and Investigations page to determine when or if their submission becomes part of an ongoing investigation.
According to whistleblower incentives and protections regulations, a whistleblower may be entitled to an award if a submitted report led to an investigation, product recall, penalty, or other NHTSA enforcement and if submitted information resulted in a successful judicial or administrative action and $1,000,000 or more in sanctions.
The Secretary of Transportation has the discretion to make an award and will consider whether anyone else knew the information provided. The Secretary also considers the whistleblower’s prior attempts to advise their employer about the problem. Awards reflect the degree to which the whistleblower and their attorney assisted in the investigative and recovery process and will range from 10 to 30 percent of monetary sanctions collected.
The NHTSA does not automatically issue an award for the submitted information. If a whistleblower believes that they meet the qualifications, they or their attorney must submit a request via email.
State and federal laws make it illegal for employers to retaliate against a whistleblower. Unfortunately, that does not always stop a company from taking punitive action. If an employer fires a whistleblower or punishes them in any other way, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may conduct a workplace investigation.
To initiate an inquiry, the employee or the legal representative for their whistleblower submission must make a report at whistleblowers.gov. OSHA determines whether the employer broke the law by retaliating against the whistleblower.
If you are considering submitting a report about vehicle safety violations in your workplace, consider working with a Charleston NHTSA Whistleblower Program lawyer throughout the process. Contact Bill Nettles for a case review and information about your whistleblower rights.