Occupational Health & Safety

OSHA Orders Company to Rehire Whistleblower, Pay $111,000

In February 2009, after repeatedly complaining to a supervisor about mechanical problems with a truck, the supervisor agreed to the complainant's suggestion to leave work and return when the truck was repaired. The next day, the complainant's employment was terminated.

OSHA has ordered United Auto Delivery and Recovery/Memphis Auto Auction to reinstate a former truck driver who was fired in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act for repeatedly complaining to a supervisor about mechanical problems with a truck.

OSHA is ordering the company to pay the worker more than $111,000 as compensation for 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.

"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 supervisor agreed to the complainant's suggestion to leave work and return when the truck was repaired. The next day, the complainant's employment was terminated.

A whistleblower complaint was filed with OSHA, and an agency whistleblower investigator found that the complainant was terminated unlawfully. 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, Tenn., and the company has approximately 50 non-union drivers.

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