November 19, 2019
U.S. Department of Labor Orders Compensation For
Employee Who Refused to Drive Without Safety Measure
BOSTON, MA – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has determined that UPS Ground Freight Inc. – doing business as UPS Freight – violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) when managers retaliated against a driver at the Londonderry, New Hampshire, facility. The driver had refused to operate a commercial motor vehicle that did not have either a permanent electronic logging device (ELD) or a mounting device for a portable ELD. OSHA ordered UPS Freight to pay the driver $15,273 in compensatory damages, $30,000 in punitive damages, and approximately $2,700 in back wages plus interest.
OSHA investigators determined that – in March 2019 – the driver refused in good faith to drive a truck without either a permanent ELD or a mounting device for a portable ELD because he believed doing so would violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). ELDs automatically record an operator's driving time and facilitate the accurate recording of a driver's hours of service. FMCSR required the driver to use an ELD, and the company to provide a vehicle with either a permanent ELD or a portable ELD mounted in a fixed position during his assigned route.
Investigators also determined that the driver's supervisor was not trained on FMCSR's requirements for ELDs, and that company managers attempted to coerce the complainant into violating the regulation. When he refused, the company terminated him for “gross insubordination.” The investigation revealed that the company later modified the driver's termination to a suspension and engaged in post-reinstatement harassment.
OSHA also ordered the company to take additional corrective actions to resolve violations of the whistleblower provisions of STAA, including:
- Clear the driver's personnel file of any reference to the issues involved in the investigation;
- Post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under STAA;
- Refrain from firing or discriminating against any employee who engages in STAA-protected activity; and
- Not use a driver's refusal to drive because of a good faith concern that doing so would violate a FMCSR as a contributing factor in any termination decision.
“Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston, Massachusetts. “This order underscores the agency's commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to ensure the safety of themselves and the general public.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of STAA and more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to help 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.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.
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Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Release Number: 19-1841-BOS/BOS 2019-193
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