When the Sauk Village, Ill., truck driver notified the company about his truck's deficient brakes, he was directed to a repair shop. Once the breaks were serviced, the company instructed the driver 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 Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. He was terminated the following day for failing to follow dispatch instructions.
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.
OSHA has ordered Interline Logistics Group 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.
"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 OSHA Administrator 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.
EHS Today was unable to reach Interline Logistics Group for comment.