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Sterling Employment Law

OSHA addresses company retaliation against truck drivers

Michigan truck drivers may be interested in the action taken by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in response to a trucking company's termination of a driver who was fired after refusing to violate safety regulations. The employee rights case was brought to the agency's attention after a whistleblower complaint was filed by the individual. The Surface Transportation Assistance Act provides drivers with protection from retaliatory behavior in cases involving their refusal to participate in unsafe driving activities.

The commercial truck driver's firing in September, 2010, followed an indefinite suspension without pay. The individual refused to drive, notifying his company that he was using a prescription cough suppressant that contained a narcotic. His refusal to violate the Ill or Fatigued Operator Rule led to his dismissal, after which he initiated his whistleblower complaint. An investigation has shown that the freight company issues notices of occurrences to punish drivers, leading to potential termination or disciplinary action if an employee refuses to drive. Safety reasons are not given consideration as these notices are issued.

OSHA has required that the company compensate the fired worker for lost wages and remove occurrences from his personnel file. Additionally, the company has been directed to cease retaliating against workers refusing to drive while fatigued or ill. The company must also post a notice about the STAA so that drivers are informed about their legal rights to refuse to drive and to report violations of safety regulations.

While OSHA protects the whistleblower rights of employees in many important fields, a worker may feel intimidated by authority figures in a company. It may be helpful for a concerned employee to consult with an employment lawyer to seek guidance and support in deciding whether employment rights have been violated or whether safety guidelines have been ignored.

Source: The Trucker, "OSHA orders trucking company to stop retaliating against drivers", January 06, 2014

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