U.S. Department of Labor Claims Global Truck Manufacturer Fired Worker over Concerns about Coronavirus Safety

U.S. Department of Labor Claims Global Truck Manufacturer Fired Worker over Concerns about Coronavirus Safety

Federal lawsuit alleges Peterbilt Motor Co. in Denton violated whistleblower protections.

As the COVID-19 began to spread rapidly across the nation in March 2020, an employee of one of the world’s largest manufacturers of light, medium and heavy-duty trucks told a supervisor of his/her concerns about exposure to the disease at the Denton facility. In response, a representative of PACCAR Inc. – doing business as Peterbilt Motor Co.told the employee that the company planned to “clean work spaces and continue work as usual.” After Paccar later learned the employee expressed concerns publicly about the company’s response and concern for the safety of other employees, the employee was fired.

An investigation by OSHA found the employee engaged in protected activity by raising workplace safety concerns, and that the company’s retaliation violated federal whistleblower protections. On November 17, the department’s Office of the Solicitor filed suit against PACCAR Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. According to a press release, in its action, the department asks the court to order the company to comply with anti-retaliation provisions in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, reinstate the employee to his former employment position with the company, pay the employee back wages, interest, compensatory and punitive damages and other remedies and expunge the employee’s personnel record.

“Our investigation found that PACCAR terminated a worker for reporting their concerns that the company’s response to the dangers of the coronavirus would not prevent its spread,” said Regional OSHA Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “Every worker has the right to report safety concerns of any kind without fear of retaliation.”

“The U.S. Department of Labor will hold employers accountable when they retaliate against workers who raise safety concerns for themselves and their co-workers,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater in Dallas. “At the same time, the department will work vigorously to ensure a worker’s legal right to a safe and healthy workplace is protected as the law provides.”

Headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, PACCAR Inc. is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty trucks. It also designs and manufactures trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt, Leyland Trucks and DAF brands. OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and more than 20 whistleblower statutes. Learn more about whistleblower protections.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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