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05 December 2018
On 15 November 2018 the US Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the reconstitution of the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC), including a new subcommittee – the National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force. The ACPAC, which was established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernisation and Improvement Act 2012, last met in September 2015. The committee has historically advised the DOT on airline customer service and consumer protection matters, but it will now advise the DOT on the handling of sexual assault and harassment on board commercial aircraft.
The task force is a product of the recently enacted FAA Reauthorisation Act 2018, which directs the DOT to establish a sexual misconduct incident working group that is composed of:
industry stakeholders, relevant Federal agencies, national organizations that specialize in providing services to victims of sexual misconduct, labor organizations that represent relevant aviation employees, and State and local law enforcement agencies.
The act requires the DOT to provide a report to Congress by 4 October 2019 on best practices for:
The legislation is in response to concerns among airline employees that passenger-on-airline employee and passenger-on-passenger assault or harassment is rarely reported to law enforcement. Currently, reports of sexual assault while in the cabin are relayed from the passenger to the cabin manager, who then alerts the pilot in command on the flight deck. It is usually the pilot who makes the determination to involve law enforcement. Some members of Congress pushed for legislation specifically regulating how airlines address instances of sexual misconduct on board aircraft. For example, the Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act would have required airlines to establish and publish policies for the reporting of assault and harassment complaints. The task force may ultimately recommend that the DOT promulgate regulations to address these concerns.
The first ACPAC meeting will be held on 16 January 2019 to discuss best practices and protocols for air carriers relating to handling, reporting and data collection of sexual assault on board commercial aircraft. The agenda will include consumer protection issues, such as the transparency of airline ancillary service fees and involuntary changes to passenger itineraries.
For further information on this topic please contact Robert F Foster at Cozen O'Connor by telephone (+1 202 912 4800) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Cozen O'Connor's website can be accessed at www.cozen.com.
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