US Department of Labor orders North Carolina printing company
to reinstate whistleblower, pay more than $83,000 in back wages
Truck driver protected by Surface Transportation Assistance Act provision
SALISBURY, N.C. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered the reinstatement of a former truck driver employed by the Salisbury-based commercial printing company, Rowan Business Forms, who was fired after reporting safety concerns about the brakes in his truck.
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 and its related entities/owners/officers ¿ including Rowan Business Forms, Richard Hardesty II, Rowan Paper Co. and Janis M. Hardesty Holdings LLC ¿ 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 A. 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 employee informed his supervisor that the company's dump truck was leaking brake fluid. He indicated that the brake pedal went all the way down to the truck 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 indicated that the leak would be repaired before the next dump; however, the repair was not performed. On Oct. 21, when the truck was ready for its next dump delivery, the employee refused to drive it because of the unrepaired leak. The next day, the company 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.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace and consumer product safety laws.
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. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.