Surface Transportation Assistance Act

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The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 was a comprehensive transportation funding and policy act of the United States Federal Government, 96 Stat. 2097. The legislation was championed by the Reagan administration to address concerns about the surface transportation infrastructure (highways and bridges). The companion Highway Revenue Act of 1982 added a nickel to the gas tax (the first such increase since 1961), four cents dedicated to restore interstate highways and bridges, and one cent for public transit. The Act also set a goal of 10 percent for participation of disadvantaged business enterprises in federal-aid projects.

Section 165: "Buy America" Act[edit]

Section 165 (49 U.S.C. § 5323j), called the "Buy America" provision or Buy America Act—not to be confused with the 1933-enacted Buy American Act—applies to mass-transit-related procurements.[1] It established requirements intended to give preference to the use of domestically produced materials on any procurements funded at least in part by federal funds.[2] Implementation of the requirements is regulated by the Federal Transit Administration.

Section 405[edit]

Effective in 1983, Section 405 (49 U.S.C. § 31105) was enacted to encourage employee reporting of noncompliance with safety regulations governing commercial motor vehicles. Congress recognized that employees in the transportation industry are often best able to detect safety violations and yet, because they may be threatened with discharge for cooperating with enforcement agencies, they need express protection against retaliation for reporting these violations. See, e. g., 128 Cong. Rec. 32698 (1982) (remarks of Sen. Percy); id., at 32509-32510 (remarks of Sen. Danforth). Section 405 protects employee "whistle-blowers" by forbidding discharge, discipline, or other forms of discrimination by the employer in response to an employee's complaining about or refusing to operate motor vehicles that do not meet the applicable safety standards.

Congress also recognized that the employee's protection against having to choose between operating an unsafe vehicle and losing his job would lack practical effectiveness if the [481 U.S. 252, 259] employee could not be reinstated pending complete review. The longer a discharged employee remains unemployed, the more devastating are the consequences to his personal financial condition and prospects for reemployment. Ensuring the eventual recovery of backpay may not alone provide sufficient protection to encourage reports of safety violations. Accordingly, 405 incorporates additional protections, authorizing temporary reinstatement based on a preliminary finding of reasonable cause to believe that the employee has suffered a retaliatory discharge. The statute reflects a careful balancing of the relative interests of the Government, employee, and employer. It evidences a legislative determination that the preliminary investigation and finding of reasonable cause by the Secretary, if followed "expeditiously" by a hearing on the record at the employer's request, provide effective protection to the employee and ensure fair consideration of the employer's interest in making unimpaired hiring decisions.

Truck drivers who believe they have suffered retaliation for reporting violations, refusing to commit violations, or participating in proceedings, can seek relief from the U.S. Department of Labor. Under STAA, truck drivers who believe they have suffered an adverse employment action (such as discharge, demotion, discipline, or denial of advancement), have 180 days to file a simple written complaint with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The complaint can be postmarked or faxed to meet the deadline. If OSHA determines that a violation did occur, it can issue a preliminary order requiring reinstatement during further proceedings. Both sides will have an opportunity to present their evidence in a recorded hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ's decision is reviewed by the Administrative Review Board, and parties can appeal to federal courts of appeals.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brock v. Roadway Express, Inc., 481 U.S. 252, that due process requires that employers receive prereinstatement notice of the employee's allegations, notice of the substance of the relevant supporting evidence, an opportunity to submit a written response, and an opportunity to meet with the investigator and present statements from rebuttal witnesses. These procedures provide a reliable initial check against mistaken decisions

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