OSHA Orders Business Forms Firm to Rehire Driver

SALISBURY, NC—The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) has ordered the reinstatement of a former truck driver employed by Rowan Business Forms, who was fired after reporting safety concerns about the brakes on the truck he drove for the printing company.

An investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program found reasonable cause to believe that the termination violated the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Consequently, the agency has ordered the company to pay the former worker more than $83,000 in back wages, interest and compensatory and punitive damages.

“We take complaints regarding retaliation for reporting truck safety very seriously,” said Cindy Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta. “Reporting concerns are a basic worker’s right, and OSHA will continue to ensure that it is protected. Employers found in violation of whistleblower protection provisions will be held accountable.”

On Aug. 18, 2009, the unidentified employee informed his supervisor that the company’s truck was leaking brake fluid. He indicated that the brake pedal went all the way down to the floor, and he had almost hit a car in front of him because of that problem. The employee was fearful for his safety.

The company manager reportedly indicated that the leak would be repaired before the next trip; however, the repair was not performed. On Oct. 21, when the truck was ready for its next delivery, the employee refused to drive it because of the unrepaired leak. The next day, Rowan Business Forms terminated the employee.

Either party to the case can file an appeal to the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such an appeal does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.

Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or 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 for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.