Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
42 U.S.C. §300j-9(i)

(i) Discrimination prohibition; filing of complaint; investigation; orders of Secretary; notice and hearing; settlements; attorneys' fees; judicial review; filing of petition; procedural requirements; stay of orders; exclusiveness of remedy; civil actions for enforcement of orders; appropriate relief; mandamus proceedings; prohibition inapplicable to undirected but deliberate violations.


(1) No employer may discharge any employee or other-wise discriminate against any employee with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because the employee (or any person acting pursuant to a request of the employee) has-


(A) commenced, caused to be commenced, or is about to commence or cause to be commenced a proceeding under this title [42 USCS §300f et seq.] or a proceeding for the administration or enforcement of drinking water regulations or underground injection control programs of a State,

(B) testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding or

(C) 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 this title [42 USCS §300f et seq.].




(A) Any employee who believes that he has been discharged or otherwise discriminated against by any person in violation of paragraph (1) may, within 30 days after such violation occurs, file (or have any person file on his behalf) a complaint with the Secretary of Labor (hereinafter in this subsection referred to as the "Secretary") alleging such discharge or discrimination. Upon receipt of such a complaint, the Secretary shall notify the person named in the complaint of the filing of the complaint.



(i) Upon receipt of a complaint filed under subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall conduct an investigation of the violation alleged in the complaint. Within 30 days of the receipt of such complaint, the Secretary shall complete such investigation and shall notify in writing the complainant (and any person acting in his behalf) and the person alleged to have committed such violation of the results of the investigation conducted pursuant to this subparagraph. Within 90 days of the receipt of such complaint the Secretary shall, unless the proceeding on the complaint is terminated by the Secretary on the basis of a settlement entered into by the Secretary and the person alleged to have committed such violation, issue an order either providing the relief prescribed by clause (ii) or denying the complaint. An order of the Secretary shall be made on the record after notice and opportunity for agency hearing. The Secretary may not enter into a settlement terminating a proceeding on a complaint without the participation and consent of the complainant.

(ii) If in response to a complaint filed under subparagraph (A) the Secretary determines that a violation of paragraph (1) has occurred, the Secretary shall order


(I) the person who committed such violation to take affirmative action to abate the violation,

(II) such person to reinstate the complainant to his former position together with the compensation (including back pay), terms, conditions, and privileges of his employment,

(III) compensatory damages, and

(IV) where appropriate, exemplary damages. If such an order is issued, the Secretary, at the request of the complainant, shall assess against the person against whom the order is issued a sum equal to the aggregate amount of all costs and expenses (including attorneys' fees ) reasonably incurred, as determined bv the Secretary, by the complainant for, or in connection with, the bringing of the complaint upon which the order was issued.




(A) Any person adversely affected or aggrieved by an order issued under paragraph (2) may obtain review of the order in the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the violation, with respect to which the order was issued, allegedly occurred. The petition for review must be filed within sixty days from the issuance of the Secretary's order. Review shall conform to chapter 7 of title 5 of the United States Code [5 USCS §701 et seq.] The commencement of proceedings under this subparagraph shall not, unless ordered by the court, operate as a stay of the Secretary's order.

(B) An order of the Secretary with respect to which review could have been obtained under subparagraph (A) shall not be subject to judicial review in any criminal or other civil proceedings.


(4) Whenever a person has failed to comply with an order issued under paragraph (2)(B), the Secretary shall file a civil action in the United States District Court for the district in which the violation was found to occur to enforce such order. In actions brought under this paragraph, the district courts shall have jurisdiction to grant all appropriate relief including, but not limited to, injunctive relief, compensatory, and exemplary damages.

(5) Any nondiscretionary duty imposed by this section is enforceable in mandamus proceeding brought under section 1361 of title 28 of the United States Code.

(6) Paragraph (1) shall not apply with respect to any employee who, acting without direction from his employer (or the employer's agent), deliberately causes a violation of any requirement of this title [42 USCS §300f et seq.].

Additional Information


The term "supplier of water" means any person who owns or operates a Public water system.

The term "contaminant" means any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter in water.

The term "person" means an individual, corporation, company, association, partnership, State, municipality, or Federal agency (and includes officers, employees, and agents of any corporation, company, association, State, municipality, or Federal Agency).

The term "Tamper" means to introduce a contaminant with the intention of harming persons; or to otherwise interfere with the operation of a public water system with the intention of harming persons.


The Act requires a recall of drinking water coolers with lead lined tanks. Drinking water supplies in school must not be contaminated by lead. Any pipe, solder, or flux, which is used after June 19, 1986 in the installation or repair of any public water system, or any plumbing in a residential or nonresidential facility providing water for human consumption which is connected to a public water system, shall be lead free. This prohibition does not apply to leaded joints necessary for the repair of cast iron pipes. "Persons" involved in water treatment procedures must be certified by the Administrator.


Reporting violations of Definitions and Prohibited Acts are protected activities.