Federal safety regulators have ordered an Auburn, Wash., based trucking company to stop retaliating against its truck drivers who refuse to drive because of illness or fatigue.
It was the second time the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ordered Oak Harbor Freight Lines to stop retaliating against drivers who invoked federal safety rules. The order came after a veteran 25-year commercial truck driver complained to OSHA that he had been suspended without pay at the company’s Portland, Ore., terminal because he was too sick to drive.
The driver alleged Oak Harbor violated the safe operating rules set forth in the Surface Transportation Act by forcing him to drive while sick and unfit.
OSHA investigated the driver’s allegations and found that it was the second time Oak Harbor retaliated against a truck driver who invoked federal safety rules.
Investigators also found the company’s attendance policy encouraged drivers to drive their trucks even when they were sick or exhausted. The trucking company also placed negative notes in the personnel records of any drivers absent because of illness or exhaustion. Those drivers also faced possible discipline or termination — violations of their federal whistleblower rights, which shield them from retaliation.
OSHA said it has repeatedly ordered Oak Harbor to change its attendance policy, but the company has not complied.
“Forcing ill or tired drivers behind the wheel puts their lives and the lives of others at risk,” said Ken Atha, OSHA regional administrator in Seattle. “Oak Harbor’s continued refusal to revise its attendance policy shows a reckless and callous indifference to employees’ rights and public safety.”
OSHA ordered Oak Harbor to pay the driver $20,000 in punitive damages and $354 in damages related to his suspension. The agency also told the trucking firm to clean the driver’s personnel file of any negative comments.