OSHA orders Interline Logistics Group to pay up for terminated whistleblower

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has mandated that Interline Logistics Group LLC immediately reinstate a Sauk Village, I’ll., truck driver who was terminated after reporting safety concerns regarding the brakes on his truck and refusing to breach the U.S. Department of Transportation rules for allowable driving and rest hours.

OSHA is also requiring that Interline Logistics Group pay the driver more than $190,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages as well as not retaliate against the employee for evoking rights under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act's whistleblower provision.

The driver filed a timely whistleblower complaint with OSHA that claimed termination followed when he alerted the company about the deficient brakes, and OSHA found that Interline Logistics Group told the driver to go to a repair shop to fix the brakes. Once completion of the service call was received, the driver was ordered to proceed to his dispatch location to pick up a return load. The driver said he would not do so because he was over the work hours allowed based on DOT regulations.

According to the Interline Logistics Group, the driver was terminated the next day for failing to follow dispatch instructions, but OSHA's investigation found reasonable cause to believe that the disciplinary actions and termination were not based on the driver breaking a company work rule. Instead, OSHA found that the driver was let go for reporting a safety issue and refusing to violate DOT regulations.

"This case sends a clear message that employers are simply not allowed to retaliate against workers for reporting work-related safety concerns or against drivers who refuse to violate DOT regulations that determine how many hours they are allowed to work and how much rest they receive," says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "The safety of all workers and everyone on the road is endangered when employees are afraid to report safety concerns because of threats from their employers."

The whistleblower provision is enforced as part of the STAA as well as provisions of 20 other statutes that protect employees who report violations of various securities, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, public transportation, workplace, consumer product, and health care and financial reform laws. Based on these laws enacted by Congress, employers cannot retaliate against employees who raise protected concerns or offer protected information to the employer or government. Employees who believe they have been retaliated against for participating in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. 

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