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Florida trucking company ordered to reinstate whistleblower, pay back wages and punitive damages (10/6)

October 6, 2010
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Zurla Trucking of Fort Myers has been ordered by OSHA to reinstate a truck driver discharged for calling attention to safety issues, according to an agency press release. The company is also to pay back wages plus interest and compensatory damages, and delete any adverse references related to the discharge from the employee's personnel file. Additionally, the company has been ordered to pay $125,000 in punitive damages.

The Labor Department is ordering the reinstatement following its finding that the driver was fired in February 2008 for refusing to drive two unsafe trucks. The department has ruled that the firing violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, which prohibits companies from discharging or discriminating against employees who refuse to operate vehicles that violate federal regulations, standards or orders relating to commercial motor vehicle safety, security or health, or when the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of a vehicle's hazardous safety or security condition.

"OSHA is committed to enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the STAA, and we will not tolerate employers that attempt to retaliate against workers whose rights are protected by this law," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta, Ga.

Either party in the case may appeal the decision to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such an appeal does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.

Zurla Trucking is a commercial trucking company employing 42 drivers.

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