Federal safety regulators have ordered a New York trucking firm to pay a former driver more than $40,000 in lost wages and punitive damages for allegedly firing him in retaliation for voicing concerns about the condition of the company truck he had to drive.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the truck driver notified Brindi Trailer Sales and Services Inc. of Meridale, N.Y., about defects in his truck shortly after he started working for the company in 2011.
The problems included defective brakes, steering issues, non-functioning turn signals, leaks, and a cracked windshield. He asked Brindi and the company owner to repair the problems, but they refused.
In February 2012, the driver contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, informing regulators there of the problems. The agency responded by inspecting the truck and pulling it out of service after finding 16 safety violations. The driver was fired when he notified Brindi of the truck’s status – a violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
The driver filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. The agency investigated the complaint and determined the driver’s allegations to be valid. OSHA ordered the company to pay the driver $32,642 in lost wages, $10,000 in punitive damages, and $3,060 in legal fees. OSHA also ordered Brindi to clear the driver’s employment record of any negative comments or notations.
“All the truck driver wanted was a safe vehicle to operate. His employer fired him instead,” OSHA said in a statement.
“This driver was fired for doing the right thing. A defective truck is a danger not only to its driver but to other motorists on the road. Commercial truck drivers have a legal right to report safety issues to their employer without fear of termination or retaliation. Violating the law can put workers at risk and has costly consequences for the offending employer,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.