Trucker fired for objecting to smoking by co-driver
Found a butt-filled ashtray in a vehicle hauling explosives
An Arizona truck driver who was fired for refusing to drive with a co-worker who smoked in the vehicle – in a truck containing explosives – was the victim of retaliation, according to OSHA, which has his former employer to reinstate him. M3 Transport LLC/SLT Expressway Inc. and its successors-in-interest, Lyons Capital LLC and the Roadmaster Group in Glendale must also pay him $280,000 in back wages and interest, $15,000 in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages.
The order follows OSHA's determination that the company violated the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act when it terminated the truck driver in February 2010 in retaliation for complaining to management about safety issues and refusing to drive a truck containing explosives with a co-driver who smoked in the vehicle – a violation of U.S. Department of Transportation regulations.
OSHA opened a whistleblower investigation upon receiving a complaint from the terminated employee. The complaint alleged that on Feb. 8, 2010, the employee was informed that a new co-driver had been assigned to haul a vehicle full of explosives to Canada. Upon finding an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts in the new co-driver's truck, the employee notified supervisors that driving with this individual would be unacceptable because smoking while hauling explosives violates federal regulations. The employee was then told by management to go home and wait to be reassigned a new co-driver. Two days later, the employee was terminated.
In addition to reinstatement and compensation for the employee, the order issued by OSHA requires the trucking company to expunge any adverse references relating to the discharge from the complainant's personnel records, and post a notice for all employees notifying them of their rights under the STAA.
M3 Transport LLC/SLT Expressway Inc., now operating as the Roadmaster Group, specializes in transporting explosives for military and defense contractors, as well as heavy hauling. Within 30 days of receipt of OSHA's order, the company or complainant may file objections or request a hearing before the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.