Yesterday, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered Palumbo Trucking Inc., of North Bradford, Connecticut, and the company’s owner, David Palumbo, to withdraw a lawsuit filed against two of the carrier’s former employees who raised safety concerns.
In addition to the demand to drop the lawsuit, OSHA also ordered Palumbo Trucking to pay the employees $60,000 in damages and to take corrective actions.
The order from OSHA stems from an investigation that found the carrier and Palumbo violated the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Act that protects employees from retaliation when they file a complaint.
Two former Palumbo employees: a mechanic and a driver registered complaints about a potentially unsafe truck with the North Bradford Police Department and the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. Palumbo learned of the complaints then terminated the employees and filed a lawsuit against them.
The lawsuit against the former employees alleges that the employees intentionally and maliciously filed the complaints with the police department and DMV.
“Filing a baseless, retaliatory lawsuit against workers who engaged in protected activity has a profound chilling effect. It can intimidate workers into remaining silent about safety and health concerns that could have consequences for them and others on the road,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator.
OSHA has ordered “Palumbo to pay each worker $20,000 in punitive damages for the filing and litigating of a lawsuit that was solely intended to retaliate against activities protected by the STAA, as well as $10,000 each in compensatory damages for mental anguish, emotional distress, pain and suffering. Additionally, the company must pay reasonable attorney’s fees to the complainants, provide the former workers a neutral job reference, and post a notice on its job site and provide fact sheets to its workers notifying them of their rights under the STAA.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.