AN OSHA recent ruling sets the precedent that drivers should not be afraid to report safety concerns.
Absolute Waste Removal in Iowa was found guilty of wrongful termination of a driver who raised safety concerns during the reorganization of company routes. The company violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Because of this ruling, the terminated driver’s job was reinstated and he was paid for benefits and rights that he missed out on. The driver was paid $23,203 in back wages with interest. OSHA also ordered the company to pay $50,000 in compensatory, plus $50,000 in punitive damages and attorney fees. The final toll for Absolute Waste Management was $123,302.
“An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report work-related injuries or safety concerns,” said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City, MO. “OSHA is committed to protecting all workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights.”
The driver was terminated February 27, 2013 when he refused to operate a vehicle that would have violated American National Standards Institute and U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. He also raised concerns several times to his employer about new procedures being put in place.
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA) prohibits drivers from being terminated for refusing to drive vehicles that would not meet Federal regulations or if they can reasonably deem that the vehicle poses a safety concern to themselves or others.
The findings of OSHA continue to drive home the point that employers are responsible for providing drivers a safe and healthy workplace. Through the STAA, employers are not allowed to retaliate against drivers for bringing safety concerns forward.
Any driver who thinks that were unlawfully terminated can file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor for an OSHA investigation.
Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights (including fact sheets) is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
It’s great the driver was given his job back, but would you want to go back to a workplace that fired you for worrying about your safety and the safety of other drivers?