OSHA has ordered Brush Creek-based Mark Alvis Inc., owner Mark Alvis and company dispatcher Jack Taylor to reinstate a former employee and pay him more than $180,000 in back pay, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages. Mark Alvis Inc. is a commercial motor carrier that transports goods throughout the U.S.
The order follows OSHA's determination that the company violated the employee's rights under the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by terminating him for his refusal to drive while fatigued and ill as well as to violate the hours-of-service requirements outlined in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
On May 4, 2010, the employee was assigned to deliver a truck of milk to a Kroger Supermarket in Murfreesboro. During the process of inspecting one of the tankers for readiness, he slipped and banged his chest and stomach against the ladder. Although he felt pain, he thought it would go away. The next day, the employee proceeded with the delivery as planned, and upon arriving in Murfreesboro, was instructed to perform another delivery. The employee informed Taylor that he could not proceed with another delivery at that time because he was ill and fatigued, and did not have sufficient allowable service hours remaining to do so according to federal regulations. The employee then returned to the company's yard site in Brush Creek, where he was told to remove his belongings from his truck. The company asserted to OSHA that the employee quit upon removing his belongings. However, OSHA conducted an investigation – which was initiated upon receiving a whistleblower complaint from the employee – that found evidence showing the employee was terminated for refusing to conduct the last ordered delivery.
The order issued by OSHA also requires the trucking company to expunge any adverse references relating to the discharge from the complainant's personnel records, and to post a notice for employees and provide a fact sheet to them with notification of their rights under the STAA.
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.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government. Employees who believe 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. More information is available online at www.whistleblowers.gov.