Jan. 6, 2017
The Pilot Records Improvement Act of 1996 (PRIA) provides employers with transparency about potential employees’ performance history, but it can also put them in a difficult situation: How much information should former employers divulge, and what kind of information is protected under the law?
To assist operators with understanding their legal obligations for PRIA requests, NBAA’s Regulatory Issues Advisory Group (RIAG) has developed a new resource – the Pilot Records Improvement Act Guide – that outlines a step-by-step process for requesting and providing employee records, including a table with specific information about the unique PRIA requirements for Part 91, Part 121, Part 125 and Part 135 operators.
For example, while all employers of pilots are required to furnish information regarding disciplinary actions involving a pilot’s performance, and disciplinary actions that resulted in termination, only Part 121 and Part 135 operators must also furnish information about drug-testing records.
“It’s really important for operators who are making disclosures pursuant to PRIA to understand where those boundaries are, because one can easily find themselves outside of them,” said Alison Squiccimarro, RIAG member and attorney at the Law Offices of Paul A. Lange.
Squiccimarro, one of three principal authors of the new NBAA resource – along with Greg Ripple, of Miller Johnson, and Jonathan Epstein, of Holland & Knight – said that a recent case, “Nelson v. Tradewind Aviation, LLC,” inspired the RIAG team to develop the tool. In that case, the plaintiff received a $300,000 verdict after it was determined that his previous employer provided unnecessary and defamatory information while responding to a PRIA request.
“Statements that fall squarely within those required by PRIA are entitled to protections from defamation actions, because PRIA includes a release,” she said. “But as soon as you step outside the bounds of that – as evidenced in the Nelson v. Tradewind decision – you’re no longer entitled to that protection.”
The FAA recently published Notice 8900.394, announcing it will begin implementing the first two phases of the Pilot Records Database in early 2017, allowing operators to request FAA pilot records electronically. However, through the early stages of database implementation, air carriers will still need to request records from an individual’s current and previous employers, leaving them open to potential liability for stepping beyond the protections provided by PRIA.
The step-by-step guidance detailed in this NBAA resource will help operators remain within those protections. In addition, the team also assembled a frequently-asked-questions section to answer the most common queries about the law, including whether employers may charge for responding to PRIA requests and what they should do withholder records.
“We worked with a number of operators to determine, ‘What are your questions about it?’ and ‘What are your concerns when you get a PRIA request?’ And from that we developed some frequently asked questions that hopefully prevent an operator from running afoul of the limitations of the protections,” said Squiccimarro.