In March 2019, managers at a UPS Ground Freight facility in Londonberry, N.H. suspended a truck driver and harassed him for refusing to use an electronic logging device (ELD).
Now, the company must pay thousands of dollars in back wages plus interest following an OSHA investigation.
“Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA regional administrator. “This order underscores the agency's commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to ensure the safety of themselves and the general public.”
Agency investigators found that the driver refused in good faith to drive the truck without the ELS or a mounting device for a portable ELD because he believed doing so would violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
FMCSR required the driver to use an ELD, and the company to provide a vehicle with either a permanent ELD or a portable ELD mounted in a fixed position during his assigned route. UPS Freight violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) when managers retaliated against the driver.
ELDs automatically record an operator's driving time and facilitate the accurate recording of a driver's hours of service. FMCSR required the driver to use an ELD, and the company to provide a vehicle with either a permanent ELD or a portable ELD mounted in a fixed position during his assigned route.
Investigators also determined that the driver's supervisor was not trained on FMCSR's requirements for ELDs, and that company managers attempted to coerce the complainant into violating the regulation. When he refused, the company terminated him for “gross insubordination.” The investigation revealed that the company later modified the driver's termination to a suspension and engaged in post-reinstatement harassment.
OSHA ordered UPS Freight to pay the driver $15,273 in compensatory damages, $30,000 in punitive damages, and approximately $2,700 in back wages plus interest.
The company also needs to take additional corrective actions to resolve violations of the whistleblower provisions of STAA, including:
- Clear the driver's personnel file of any reference to the issues involved in the investigation;
- Post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under STAA;
- Refrain from firing or discriminating against any employee who engages in STAA-protected activity; and
- Not use a driver's refusal to drive because of a good faith concern that doing so would violate a FMCSR as a contributing factor in any termination decision.