OSHA Orders Shipping Firm to Reinstate Whistleblower, Pay $190,000

An employee was allegedly terminated after reporting safety concerns about the brakes on his truck and refusing to violate U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for allowable driving and rest hours.

OSHA has ordered Interline Logistics Group LLC to immediately reinstate a truck driver in Sauk Village, Ill., who was terminated after reporting safety concerns about the brakes on his truck and refusing to violate U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for allowable driving and rest hours. OSHA also has ordered the company to pay the driver more than $190,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages, and to refrain from retaliating against the employee for exercising rights guaranteed under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act's whistleblower provision.

The driver filed a timely whistleblower complaint with OSHA, alleging termination after notifying the company about the deficient brakes. OSHA found that the company had directed the driver to a repair shop to service the brakes and upon completion of the service call, the driver was instructed to proceed to his dispatch location to pick up a return load. The driver declined to do so, stating he was over the work hours allowed according to DOT regulations. The following day, the driver was terminated for stated reasons including failing to follow dispatch instructions, according to the company. However, OSHA's investigation found reasonable cause to believe that the disciplinary charges and termination were not based on the driver breaking a company work rule but on reporting a safety issue and refusing to violate DOT regulations.

"This case sends a clear message that employers are simply not allowed to retaliate against workers for reporting work-related safety concerns or against drivers who refuse to violate DOT regulations that determine how many hours they are allowed to work and how much rest they receive," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "The safety of all workers and everyone on the road is endangered when employees are afraid to report safety concerns because of threats from their employers."

Interline Logistics Group is headquartered in Kennesaw, Ga., and operates nationwide. Either party to the case can file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such an appeal does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.

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