US Labor Department's OSHA orders Tennessee trucking company to
reinstate whistleblower, pay more than $180,000 in back wages and damages
Company allegedly violated whistleblower provisions of Surface Transportation Assistance Act
BRUSH CREEK, Tenn. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Brush Creek-based Mark Alvis Inc., owner Mark Alvis and company dispatcher Jack Taylor to reinstate a former employee and pay him more than $180,000 in back pay, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages. Mark Alvis Inc. is a commercial motor carrier that transports goods throughout the U.S.
The order follows OSHA's determination that the company violated the employee's rights under the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by terminating him for his refusal to drive while fatigued and ill as well as to violate the hours-of-service requirements outlined in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
"America's truck drivers have the right to refuse to drive when they are fatigued and/or ill and when they may be in violation of hours-of-service requirements, as permitted by current federal trucking regulations," said Cindy A. Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "OSHA will ensure that these basic worker rights are protected and will prosecute any employer found violating them."
On May 4, 2010, the employee was assigned to deliver a truck of milk to a Kroger Supermarket in Murfreesboro. During the process of inspecting one of the tankers for readiness, he slipped and banged his chest and stomach against the ladder. Although he felt pain, he thought it would go away. The next day, the employee proceeded with the delivery as planned, and upon arriving in Murfreesboro, was instructed to perform another delivery. The employee informed Taylor that he could not proceed with another delivery at that time because he was ill and fatigued, and did not have sufficient allowable service hours remaining to do so according to federal regulations. The employee then returned to the company's yard site in Brush Creek, where he was told to remove his belongings from his truck. The company asserted to OSHA that the employee quit upon removing his belongings. However, OSHA conducted an investigation – which was initiated upon receiving a whistleblower complaint from the employee – that found evidence showing the employee was terminated for refusing to conduct the last ordered delivery.
The order issued by OSHA also requires the trucking company to expunge any adverse references relating to the discharge from the complainant's personnel records, and to post a notice for employees and provide a fact sheet to them with notification of their rights under the STAA.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
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 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. More information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to 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.
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 or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.