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Whistleblowing truck driver must be hired back, says OSHA

truckA truck driver who was fired after raising concerns about defects in the vehicle he was required to drive must be reinstated, according to OSHA. The agency found reasonable cause that the termination by Newark-based Jersey Window Factory & Building Supply Inc. violated the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

The employee raised concerns verbally and in a letter about vehicle defects, including broken sideview mirrors, a driver's door that couldn't be opened properly, a broken window handle and a deficient steering mechanism. After submitting a second letter, which outlined further safety concerns and questioned whether the company's safety practices were in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, the employee's hours were reduced. The employee subsequently filed an OSHA safety complaint and was terminated on July 2, 2008.

OSHA has ordered the company to pay the former worker back wages and bonuses that cover the period from July 2008 until a bona fide offer of reinstatement is made. The company also has been ordered to pay $18,000 in compensatory damages.

"Workers have the right to voice safety concerns without fear of retaliation or termination," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Employers found in violation of whistleblower protection provisions will be held accountable."

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 20 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, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities 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 the government. Detailed information on employer whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at www.whistleblowers.gov.

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