DOL Orders Printing Firm to Reinstate Whistleblower, Pay $83,000

An investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program found reasonable cause to believe that the employee's termination violated the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

OSHA has ordered Salisbury, N.C.-based commercial printing company, Rowan Business Forms, to reinstate a former truck driver who was fired after reporting safety concerns about the brakes in his truck.

An investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program found reasonable cause to believe that the termination violated the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Consequently, the agency has ordered the company and its related entities/owners/officers—including Rowan Business Forms, Richard Hardesty II, Rowan Paper Co., and Janis M. Hardesty Holdings LLC—to pay the former worker more than $83,000 in back wages, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.

"We take complaints regarding retaliation for reporting truck safety very seriously," said Cindy A. Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "Reporting concerns are a basic worker's right, and OSHA will continue to ensure that it is protected. Employers found in violation of whistleblower protection provisions will be held accountable."

On Aug. 18, 2009, the employee informed his supervisor that the company's dump truck was leaking brake fluid. He indicated that the brake pedal went all the way down to the truck floor, and he had almost hit a car in front of him because of that problem. The employee was fearful for his safety. The company manager indicated that the leak would be repaired before the next dump; however, the repair was not performed. On Oct. 21, when the truck was ready for its next dump delivery, the employee refused to drive it because of the unrepaired leak. The next day, the company terminated the employee.

Either party to the case can file an appeal to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such an appeal does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.

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