OSHA has ordered United Parcel Service (UPS) to immediately rehire and pay back wages, benefits, compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages to a former Bay Area driver who was wrongfully terminated after he refused to drive after raising safety concerns, according to an OSHA press release.

A whistleblower investigation by OSHA found that UPS terminated the employee in retaliation for his refusal to work in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, 49 U.S.C. Section 31105 (STAA). OSHA determined that the driver was terminated after refusing to drive his vehicle because he felt it was unsafe to operate due to vision problems and poor weather conditions resulting in visibility concerns. Although the driver notified UPS management of the unsafe conditions, UPS management continued to order the unsafe operation of the vehicle. Either party in the case can file an appeal to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.

"It is vital that employees be able to raise safety concerns to their employers without fear of retaliation," said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA's regional administrator in San Francisco, whose office investigated the complaint. "This order reaffirms both the right of drivers to refuse to operate vehicles when they reasonably believe it is unsafe and the Labor Department's commitment to taking the necessary steps to protect that right."

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 17 statutes, including STAA, designed to protect employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, railroad, nuclear power, pipeline, consumer protection, environmental and securities laws. Information about employees' rights and employers' responsibilities under the whistleblower provisions of those laws may be found on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html