Truck Driver Awarded $315K For Refusing To Operate Under Unsafe Conditions

Today, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administratio (OSHA) announced it has ordered Gaines Motor Lines Inc., along with Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins, to pay four truck drivers $1,070.123 in back pay, interesest, compensatory and punitive damages.

OSHA says Gaines Motor Lines violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act and Whistleblower Act when the company fired four drivers who filed a complaint against the carrier and participated in an audit by the FMCSA of the company’s facility in Hickory, New York by the FMCSA.

From February 28, through March 1, 2012, the four employees were interviewed on the trucking company’s property by the FMCSA.  As a result of the FMCSA’s investigation, Gaines Motor Lines was issued citations.

According to OSHA, on March 8, the four drivers who assisted the FMCSA were either terminated, laid off or had their benefits revoked.

“Workers in this industry must be able to raise safety concerns with federal officials without fear of retaliation,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Participating in an on-site inspection helps to ensure safer conditions for truck drivers and vehicles on the road. Employers undermining these protections through intimidation and adverse conduct will not be tolerated.”

In addition to the financial award, OSHA has ordered Gaines to reinstate three of the four drivers (the fourth driver died in early 2013) back wages, interest, compensatory damages of $215,000 and punitive damages of $675,000.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, food safety, motor vehicle safety, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.

Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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