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How to File a TSA Pat-Down Complaint

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

At some point you've likely experienced a TSA pat-down. And regardless of who performed it, the experience was probably not very enjoyable.

It's true that TSA agents perform the pat-downs to protect our safety. But do they have to be so invasive with their touching?

If you think you have fallen victim to an overzealous TSA agent, here are some steps to filing a complaint with the agency, as provided by the TSA itself:

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaints.

Travelers who have been treated differently or have been unlawfully discriminated against by a TSA employee may file a civil rights or civil liberties complaint with the agency's Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement Multicultural Division. Discrimination includes being treated differently or less favorably because of characteristics like race, national origin, age, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and parental status.

To file a civil rights compliant, you have to provide your personal information in the complaint like your name, address, and telephone number. You will also have to provide a detailed description of the experience giving rise to the complaint.

After you file the complaint, a specialist will be assigned to handle your complaint and will send you an acknowledgement of receipt of your concern. The specialist may conduct a fact-finding inquiry into the complaint and recommend measures to be put in place.

Offensive Touching and Injury Complaints.

If you believe you've been the victim of an overzealous nondiscriminatory pat-down -- for example, a pat-down that gets a bit too personal or that somehow ends in injury -- there's a different process in place.

Because the TSA is a government agency, you'll have to submit a tort claim before you can file a lawsuit. In general, tort claims must be filed within two years of the alleged incident, and there are other caveats involved as well.

Despite these complaint procedures, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office suggests the TSA can improve the way it handles complaints. The current processes "do not fully conform to standards of independence to ensure that these processes are fair, impartial and credible," the GAO stated.

So if you think your TSA pat-down crossed the line into an offensive assault or battery, your best bet may be to contact a personal injury attorney to figure out the best way to proceed. An attorney can also help you if the TSA does nothing in response to your valid complaint, or if the TSA finds that your claims are unfounded.

Dec. 17, 2012 Editor's Note: This post was updated with a link to the GAO's report recommending changes to the TSA's complaint process.

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