US Labor Department orders Fort Myers, Fla., trucking company to reinstate
whistleblower and pay back wages, plus punitive damages of $125,000
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Zurla Trucking of Fort Myers has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to reinstate a truck driver discharged for calling attention to safety issues. The company is also to pay back wages plus interest and compensatory damages, and delete any adverse references related to the discharge from the employee's personnel file. Additionally, the company has been ordered to pay $125,000 in punitive damages.
The Labor Department is ordering the reinstatement following its finding that the driver was fired in February 2008 for refusing to drive two unsafe trucks. The department has ruled that the firing violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, which prohibits companies from discharging or discriminating against employees who refuse to operate vehicles that violate federal regulations, standards or orders relating to commercial motor vehicle safety, security or health, or when the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of a vehicle's hazardous safety or security condition.
"OSHA is committed to enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the STAA, and we will not tolerate employers that attempt to retaliate against workers whose rights are protected by this law," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta, Ga.
Either party in the case may appeal the decision to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such an appeal does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.
Zurla Trucking is a commercial trucking company employing 42 drivers.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 17 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws; airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, rail, workplace safety and health regulations; and consumer product safety laws. Under the provisions, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to 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. Fact sheets and detailed information on employee whistleblower rights are 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 assure 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 Labor Department does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
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