OSHA settles whistleblower complaint against Gaines Motor Lines Inc.
Complaint filed under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act
HICKORY, N.C. – The U.S. Department of Labor has entered into a settlement agreement with Gaines Motor Lines Inc., as well as individuals Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins, to resolve findings made by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging that four former truck drivers were terminated for participating in an inspection audit, in violation of the whistleblower protection provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
"OSHA will continue to ensure that the whistleblower provisions of the STAA are properly and thoroughly enforced, while keeping open the opportunity for settlement negotiations," said Kurt A. Petermeyer, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "In this case, we are pleased to enter into a settlement agreement that solidifies this commitment."
The whistleblower complaint alleged that four employees were terminated for participating in an inspection audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that identified log violations at the commercial motor carrier company's facility in Hickory. From Feb. 28 through March 1, 2012, the four employees were interviewed by the FMCSA. On March 8, following the audit and subsequent citations issued against Gaines Motor Lines, the workers suffered adverse retaliation by company officials, including termination, layoffs and removal of employee benefits.
The settlement requires the employer to pay the complainants a total of $262,500, which includes all back pay and interest, and compensatory damages. Additionally, the company will post the OSHA and whistleblower posters in the workplace and provide training regarding STAA protected rights to all workers.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. For detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, visit 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.
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