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e-CFR data is current as of January 19, 2021

Title 29Subtitle BChapter XVIIPart 1981 → Subpart A


Title 29: Labor
PART 1981—PROCEDURES FOR THE HANDLING OF DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINTS UNDER SECTION 6 OF THE PIPELINE SAFETY IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2002


Subpart A—Complaints, Investigations, Findings, and Preliminary Orders


Contents
§1981.100   Purpose and scope.
§1981.101   Definitions.
§1981.102   Obligations and prohibited acts.
§1981.103   Filing of discrimination complaint.
§1981.104   Investigation.
§1981.105   Issuance of findings and preliminary orders.

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§1981.100   Purpose and scope.

(a) This part implements procedures under section 6 of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, 49 U.S.C. 60129 (“the Pipeline Safety Act”), which provides for employee protection from discrimination by a person owning or operating a pipeline facility or a contractor or subcontractor of such person because the employee has engaged in protected activity pertaining to a violation or alleged violation of any order, regulation, or standard under chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other provision of Federal law relating to pipeline safety.

(b) This part establishes procedures pursuant to the Pipeline Safety Act for the expeditious handling of discrimination complaints made by employees, or by persons acting on their behalf. These rules, together with those rules codified at 29 CFR part 18, set forth the procedures for submission of complaints under the Pipeline Safety Act, investigations, issuance of findings and preliminary orders, objections to findings and orders, litigation before administrative law judges, post-hearing administrative review, and withdrawals and settlements.

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§1981.101   Definitions.

“Act” or “Pipeline Safety Act” means section 6 of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, Public Law No. 107-355, December 17, 2002, 49 U.S.C. 60129.

“Assistant Secretary” means the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health or the person or persons to whom he or she delegates authority under the Act.

“Complainant” means the employee who filed a complaint under the Act or on whose behalf a complaint was filed.

“Employee” means an individual presently or formerly working for a person owning or operating a pipeline facility or a contractor or subcontractor of such a person, an individual applying to work for a person owning or operating a pipeline facility or a contractor or subcontractor of such a person, or an individual whose employment could be affected by a person owning or operating a pipeline facility or a contractor or subcontractor of such a person.

“Employer” means a person owning or operating a pipeline facility or a contractor or subcontractor of such a person.

“Gas pipeline facility” includes a pipeline, a right of way, a facility, a building, or equipment used in transporting gas or treating gas during its transportation.

“Hazardous liquid pipeline facility” includes a pipeline, a right of way, a facility, a building, or equipment used or intended to be used in transporting hazardous liquid.

“Named person” means the person alleged to have violated the Act.

“OSHA” means the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor.

“Person” means a corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, joint stock company, an individual, a State, a municipality, and a trustee, receiver, assignee, or personal representative of a person.

“Pipeline facility” means a gas pipeline facility and a hazardous liquid pipeline facility.

“Secretary” means the Secretary of Labor or persons to whom authority under the Act has been delegated.

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§1981.102   Obligations and prohibited acts.

(a) No employer may discharge any employee or otherwise discriminate against any employee with respect to the employee's compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because the employee, or any person acting pursuant to the employee's request, engaged in any of the activities specified in paragraphs (b)(1) through (5) of this section.

(b) It is a violation of the Act for any employer to intimidate, threaten, restrain, coerce, blacklist, discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because the employee has:

(1) Provided, caused to be provided, or is about to provide or cause to be provided to the employer or the Federal Government, information relating to any violation or alleged violation of any order, regulation, or standard under chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety;

(2) Refused to engage in any practice made unlawful by chapter 601, in subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety, if the employee has identified the alleged illegality to the employer;

(3) Provided, caused to be provided, or is about to provide or cause to be provided, testimony before Congress or at any Federal or State proceeding regarding any provision (or proposed provision) of chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety, or testimony in any proceeding under chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety, or a proceeding for the administration or enforcement of any requirement imposed under chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety;

(4) Commenced, caused to be commenced, or is about to commence or cause to be commenced a proceeding under chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety, or a proceeding for the administration or enforcement of any requirement imposed under chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety; or

(5) Assisted or participated or is about to assist or participate in any manner in such a proceeding or in any other action to carry out the purposes of chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law relating to pipeline safety.

(c) This part shall have no application to any employee of an employer who, acting without direction from the employer (or such employer's agent), deliberately causes a violation of any requirement relating to pipeline safety under chapter 601, subtitle VIII of title 49 of the United States Code or any other Federal law.

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§1981.103   Filing of discrimination complaint.

(a) Who may file. An employee who believes that he or she has been discriminated against by an employer in violation of the Act may file, or have filed by any person on the employee's behalf, a complaint alleging such discrimination.

(b) Nature of filing. No particular form of complaint is required, except that a complaint must be in writing and should include a full statement of the acts and omissions, with pertinent dates, which are believed to constitute the violations.

(c) Place of filing. The complaint should be filed with the OSHA Area Director responsible for enforcement activities in the geographical area where the employee resides or was employed, but may be filed with any OSHA officer or employee. Addresses and telephone numbers for these officials are set forth in local directories and at the following Internet address: http://www.osha.gov.

(d) Time for filing. Within 180 days after an alleged violation of the Act occurs (i.e., when the discriminatory decision has been both made and communicated to the complainant), an employee who believes that he or she has been discriminated against in violation of the Act may file, or have filed by any person on the employee's behalf, a complaint alleging such discrimination. The date of the postmark, facsimile transmittal, or e-mail communication will be considered to be the date of filing; if the complaint is filed in person, by hand-delivery or other means, the complaint is filed upon receipt.

(e) Relationship to section 11(c) complaints. A complaint filed under the Pipeline Safety Act that alleges facts which would constitute a violation of section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. 660(c), will be deemed to be a complaint filed under both the Pipeline Safety Act and section 11(c). Similarly, a complaint filed under section 11(c) that alleges facts that would constitute a violation of the Pipeline Safety Act will be deemed to be a complaint filed under both the Pipeline Safety Act and section 11(c). Normal procedures and timeliness requirements for investigations under the respective laws and regulations will be followed.

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§1981.104   Investigation.

(a) Upon receipt of a complaint in the investigating office, the Assistant Secretary will notify the named person of the filing of the complaint, of the allegations contained in the complaint, and of the substance of the evidence supporting the complaint (redacted to protect the identity of any confidential informants). The Assistant Secretary will also notify the named person of his or her rights under paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section and paragraph (e) of §1981.110. A copy of the notice to the named person will also be provided to the Department of Transportation.

(b) A complaint of alleged violation shall be dismissed unless the complainant has made a prima facie showing that protected behavior or conduct was a contributing factor in the unfavorable personnel action alleged in the complaint.

(1) The complaint, supplemented as appropriate by interviews of the complainant, must allege the existence of facts and evidence to make a prima facie showing as follows:

(i) The employee engaged in a protected activity or conduct;

(ii) The named person knew or suspected, actually or constructively, that the employee engaged in the protected activity;

(iii) The employee suffered an unfavorable personnel action; and

(iv) The circumstances were sufficient to raise the inference that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the unfavorable action.

(2) For purposes of determining whether to investigate, the complainant will be considered to have met the required burden if the complaint on its face, supplemented as appropriate through interviews of the complainant, alleges the existence of facts and either direct or circumstantial evidence to meet the required showing, i.e., to give rise to an inference that the named person knew or suspected that the employee engaged in protected activity and that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the unfavorable personnel action. Normally the burden is satisfied, for example, if the complaint shows that the adverse personnel action took place shortly after the protected activity, giving rise to the inference that it was a factor in the adverse action. If the required showing has not been made, the complainant will be so advised and the investigation will not commence.

(c) Notwithstanding a finding that a complainant has made a prima facie showing, as required by this section, an investigation of the complaint shall not be conducted if the named person, pursuant to the procedures provided in this paragraph, demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same unfavorable personnel action in the absence of the complainant's protected behavior or conduct. Within 20 days of receipt of the notice of the filing of the complaint, the named person may submit to the Assistant Secretary a written statement and any affidavits or documents substantiating his or her position. Within the same 20 days, the named person may request a meeting with the Assistant Secretary to present his or her position.

(d) If the named person fails to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same unfavorable personnel action in the absence of the behavior protected by the Act, the Assistant Secretary will conduct an investigation. Investigations will be conducted in a manner that protects the confidentiality of any person who provides information on a confidential basis, other than the complainant, in accordance with part 70 of title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

(e) Prior to the issuance of findings and a preliminary order as provided for in §1981.105, if the Assistant Secretary has reasonable cause, on the basis of information gathered under the procedures of this part, to believe that the named person has violated the Act and that preliminary reinstatement is warranted, the Assistant Secretary will again contact the named person to give notice of the substance of the relevant evidence supporting the complainant's allegations as developed during the course of the investigation. This evidence includes any witness statements, which will be redacted to protect the identity of confidential informants where statements were given in confidence; if the statements cannot be redacted without revealing the identity of confidential informants, summaries of their contents will be provided. The named person will be given the opportunity to submit a written response, to meet with the investigators to present statements from witnesses in support of his or her position, and to present legal and factual arguments. The named person will present this evidence within 10 business days of the Assistant Secretary's notification pursuant to this paragraph, or as soon afterwards as the Assistant Secretary and the named person can agree, if the interests of justice so require.

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§1981.105   Issuance of findings and preliminary orders.

Link to an amendment published at 86 FR 1790, Jan. 11, 2021.

(a) After considering all the relevant information collected during the investigation, the Assistant Secretary shall issue, within 60 days of filing of the complaint, written findings as to whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that the named person has discriminated against the complainant in violation of the Act.

(1) If the Assistant Secretary concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, he or she shall accompany the findings with a preliminary order providing relief to the complainant. The preliminary order shall include, where appropriate, a requirement that the named person abate the violation; reinstatement of the complainant to his or her former position, together with the compensation (including back pay), terms, conditions and privileges of the complainant's employment; and payment of compensatory damages. Where the named person establishes that the complainant is a security risk (whether or not the information is obtained after the complainant's discharge), a preliminary order of reinstatement would not be appropriate. At the complainant's request the order shall also assess against the named person the complainant's costs and expenses (including attorney's and expert witness fees) reasonably incurred in connection with the filing of the complaint.

(2) If the Assistant Secretary concludes that a violation has not occurred, the Assistant Secretary will notify the parties of that finding.

(b) The findings and the preliminary order will be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to all parties of record. The letter accompanying the findings and order will inform the parties of their right to file objections and to request a hearing, and of the right of the named person to request attorney's fees from the administrative law judge, regardless of whether the named person has filed objections, if the named person alleges that the complaint was frivolous or brought in bad faith. The letter also will give the address of the Chief Administrative Law Judge. At the same time, the Assistant Secretary will file with the Chief Administrative Law Judge, U.S. Department of Labor, a copy of the original complaint and a copy of the findings and order.

(c) The findings and the preliminary order will be effective 60 days after receipt by the named person pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, unless an objection and a request for a hearing has been filed as provided at §1981.106. However, the portion of any preliminary order requiring reinstatement will be effective immediately upon receipt of the findings and preliminary order.

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