The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently ordered Freight Rite Inc. – based in Florence, KY – to reinstate a truck driver terminated after he refused to operate a commercial motor vehicle in hazardous road conditions caused by inclement winter weather.
OSHA ordered the company to pay the driver $31,569 in back wages and interest, $100,000 in punitive damages, $50,000 in compensatory damages, and reasonable attorney fees, and to refrain from retaliating against the employee.
OSHA inspectors determined that the employee advised the company's management of his reasonable apprehension of danger to himself and to the general public due to the hazardous road conditions. The termination is a violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).
In addition to reinstating the employee and clearing his personnel file of any reference to the issues involved in the investigation, the employer must also post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under STAA.
"Forcing drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle during inclement weather places their lives and the lives of others at risk," said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer, in Atlanta, GA. "This order underscores the agency's commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to ensure the safety of themselves and the general public."
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to help ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education and assistance.