According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an Michigan-based company has been ordered to pay nearly $1 million to a foreman and two truck drivers who “raised concerns after being directed to violate” HOS laws.
Asphalt Specialists Inc., based in Pontiac, Michigan, has been ordered to pay a total of $953,916: $243,916 in back wages to the drivers, $110,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages.
OSHA also ordered Asphalt Specialists to reinstate the three former employees.
On June 30, 2012, the foreman was terminated from Asphalt Specialists after he voiced his concerns to management about exceeding HOS when work flow prevented employees from taking their 10-hour rest period.
“At least twice, the foreman and the crew were expected to work more than 27 hours straight. The employee rightfully refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner, which could potentially cause serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public. OSHA has ordered the foreman to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $147,457, less any applicable employment taxes; $50,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages,” OSHA states.
On April 26, 2013, a truck driver was terminated from Asphalt Specialists when he allegedly refused to sign an affidavit in response to OSHA’s investigation on the termination of the foreman, denying the workers were required to in excess of legal hours.
OSHA has ordered Asphalt Specialists reinstate the driver and pay the driver back wages of $44,379, less any applicable employment taxes; $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
A third employee, a truck driver, who also voiced concerns about exceeding legal driving hours and vehicle maintenance, was terminated on July 8, 2013.
OSHA has ordered Asphalt Specialists reinstate the driver and to pay the driver back wages of $52,080, less any applicable employment taxes; $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
“It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report work-related safety concerns or violations of federal transportation regulations, which require drivers to have a minimum 10-hour rest period between shifts,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA is committed to protecting workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights.”
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act covers private-sector drivers and other employees of commercial motor carriers. Companies covered by the STAA may not discharge their employees or retaliate against them for refusing to operate a vehicle because doing so would either violate a federal commercial motor vehicle rule related to safety, health or security, or because the employee had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to themselves or the public because of a vehicle’s safety or security condition.
Any of the parties in this case can file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
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 to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available 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.