Public in danger when truck driver whistleblowers are fired, says OSHA (2/25)
February 25, 2011
Repeatedly complaining about mechanical problems with a truck didn’t get the truck fixed – it got the complainer fired.
After an OSHA whistleblower investigation, United Auto Delivery and Recovery/Memphis Auto Auction has been ordered to reinstate a former truck driver, pay him more than $111,000 and clean up his personnel file.
"Employees have the legal right to report unsafe driving situations, not only for their own safety, but also to protect the public from unsafe trucks on the roads," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "OSHA will not allow trucking companies to retaliate against drivers who are exercising their rights."
In February 2009, after repeatedly complaining to a supervisor about mechanical problems with a truck, the driver suggested he leave work and return when the truck was repaired – an action approved by his supervisor. The next day, however, the driver learned he was out of a job.
An OSHA investigator determined that his termination was a violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The monetary settlement includes back wages plus interest, compensatory damages and punitive damages. The company is also required to delete any adverse references related to the discharge from the employee's personnel file and post a fact sheet informing employees of their rights.
Either party to the case can file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but the complainant must immediately be reinstated regardless of whether the order is appealed.
United Auto Delivery and Recovery/Memphis Auto Auction is a commercial carrier that provides vehicle repossession services in the Midwest, and sells and auctions recovered vehicles. Its headquarters are in Memphis, and the company has approximately 50 non-union drivers.