The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered a North Carolina commercial printing company to reinstate a former truck driver it fired after he reported safety concerns about his company-owned truck.
An investigation conducted under OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program found that Salisbury-based Rowan Business Forms violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act’s whistleblower provision when it fired its driver for reporting a dangerous mechanical problem that affected his ability to brake properly.
In addition to reinstatement, OSHA also ordered Rowan Business Forms and its owners and officers to pay the former driver more than $83,000 in back wages, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.
According to OSHA, on Aug. 18, 2009, the driver informed his supervisor that the company’s dump truck was leaking brake fluid. He indicated that whenever he stepped on the brake pedal, it went all the way down to the truck floor, and he reported nearly crashing into a car in front of him because of his impaired ability to brake. The driver expressed fear for his own safety and that of others on the road.
The company’s manager indicated that the leak would be repaired before the driver made another run, but the repair was not made. When the truck was ready for its next dump delivery, the employee refused to drive it because of the unrepaired leak. Rowan Business Forms terminated the driver the following day.
“We take complaints regarding retaliation for reporting truck safety very seriously,” said Cindy 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.”
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise certain concerns or provide information to the employer or the government under a number of whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various laws pertaining to commercial motor vehicles and several other industries.
For more information about whistleblower protection laws, visit www.beasleyallen.com.