CLEAR LAKE, Iowa -- Absolute Waste Removal has been found in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for wrongfully terminating a truck driver for raising safety concerns during the reorganization of company routes. Headquartered in Clear Lake, Absolute Waste Removal was ordered to reinstate the driver to his former position with all pay, benefits and rights, in addition to paying back wages of $23,203, plus interest. OSHA ordered the company to pay $50,000 in compensatory and $50,000 in punitive damages and reasonable attorney's fees.
'An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report work-related injuries or safety concerns,' said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City, Mo. 'OSHA is committed to protecting all workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights.'
The driver was terminated from employment on Feb. 27, 2013, after raising repeated concerns to the company's owner about new procedures being implemented. The employee rightfully refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner because such operation would violate American National Standards Institute and U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, potentially causing serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public.
STAA covers private sector drivers and other employees of commercial motor carriers. Companies covered by STAA may not discharge their employees or retaliate against them for refusing to operate a vehicle that would violate a federal commercial motor vehicle rule related to safety, health, or security, or because they had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to themselves or to the public related to a vehicle's safety or security condition.
Either party in these cases can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.