OSHA fines carrier for ‘blacklisting’ driver

Jan. 7, 2014

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Springfield, Mo.-based New Prime Inc. to pay a former employee $100,994.24 in back wages and damages, saying that Prime retaliated again him “by blacklisting him in the commercial transport industry after he sought medical attention for a work-related injury.”

The “blacklisting” consists of what OSHA says is “damaging and misleading information” that Prime included on the driver’s Drive-A-Check (DAC) Report.

“Prime’s policy is to not comment on pending litigation,” the company’s legal department said in a prepared statement. “Prime is appealing this investigative finding and litigation will begin shortly.  The next step is to have a trial on the merits.”

According to OHSA, the driver notified his supervisors in October 2008 that he sustained an on-the-job back injury and was seeking medical attention. He provided documentation the following month that the condition was serious enough to prevent him from returning to work because he had been prescribed medications that made operating a commercial motor vehicle unsafe.

The following July, the driver’s doctor released him for full duty, but he opted to look for employment elsewhere. After being rejected for a job, the driver learned about information provided by Prime on his DAC Report and filed a complaint with OSHA alleging a violation of the anti-retaliatory provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

The OSHA order covers lost wages, including interest, of $41,373.34, covering the time between July 1, 2009 and April 1, 2010; $40,000 in compensatory damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress and loss of home and property; and $20,000 in punitive damages “in light of the company’s reckless and callous disregard for the worker’s rights” under the STAA. Prime also must remove any reference to the driver’s termination in his employment and DAC Report records.

The order against Prime was the second against a trucking company in 2014. On Jan. 2, OSHA ordered Auburn, WA-based Oak Harbor Freight Lines Inc. to compensate a former worker who refused to drive in violation of safety regulations and to stop retaliating against workers who refuse to drive trucks while too ill or fatigued to safely operate vehicles at its facilities. At issue was Oak Harbor’s attendance policy under which the carrier issued notices of “occurrences” when drivers fail to drive, subjecting them to disciplinary action, OSHA said.

About the Author

Avery Vise | Contributing editor

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