OSHA orders trucking company to pay ‘whistleblower’
February 28, 2020
•Land Line Staff
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that a defunct Connecticut trucking company retaliated against a trucker who voiced concerns about faulty vehicle maintenance and hours-of-service violations.
OSHA investigators said Universal Trucking Solutions LLC, Hartford, Conn., and its co-owner, Juan Ramirez, violated the whistleblower protections of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
According to OSHA, the driver repeatedly told management about faulty vehicle maintenance, including missing or inoperative headlights and air pressure leaks, as well as about the company’s direction to violate FMCSA hours-of-service regulations. OSHA investigators said the company’s management and Ramirez later changed the driver’s work schedule, which resulted in reduced pay.
The driver resigned in February 2017 after concerns of potential injuries from defective trucks and potential consequences from the U.S. Department of Transportation for violations of hours of service, the OSHA news release said.
OSHA ordered United Trucking Solutions and Ramirez to take the following corrective actions:
Pay the driver $8,315.81 in back pay and interest, $75,000 in punitive damages, and $50,000 in compensatory damages for mental paid and emotional stress.
Pay $21,378.05 in reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Refrain from retaliating or discriminating against the complainant in any manner for exercising whistleblower rights.
“Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA’s regional administrator in Boston. “This order reinforces the agency’s commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to a safe workplace and refuse to place themselves and the public at risk.”
Either party may appeal the order to the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act and more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. More information about whistleblower protections can be found here.