Region 4 News Release: 12-2041-ATL (359)
Oct. 16, 2012
Contact: Michael D'Aquino
US Labor Department settles whistleblower
case with Tennessee trucking company
Company reinstates, pays $30,000 to employee
BRUSH CREEK, Tenn. – The U.S. Department of Labor has settled its whistleblower case against Brush Creek-based trucking company Mark Alvis Inc., owner Mark Alvis and dispatcher Jack Taylor for terminating an employee who refused to operate a vehicle because he was ill, fatigued and did not have sufficient remaining hours to complete a delivery.
An investigation by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found sufficient evidence that the termination violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Consequently, OSHA issued a preliminary order on May 1 requiring that the employee be reinstated, and this settlement, approved on Sept. 25 by Labor Department Administrative Law Judge Stephen R. Henley, resolves the agency's order. The settlement terms include reinstatement, a lump sum payment of $30,000 to the employee and assurances that no employee exercising rights protected by the STAA will be discharged or face any manner of discrimination. OSHA was represented in this case by the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Nashville.
On May 4, 2010, the employee was assigned to deliver a truck of milk to a supermarket in Murfreesboro. While preparing for the drive, he slipped and was hurt but thought the pain 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 the dispatcher of feeling ill and fatigued, and also of not having sufficient allowable service hours remaining to make the drive according to federal regulations. The employee then returned to the company's 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.
"OSHA will continue to ensure that America's truck drivers' right to refuse to drive when they are fatigued, ill or in violation of hours-of-service requirements is not undermined," said Cindy A. Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "OSHA is pleased to reach a settlement in this matter that includes the employee's reinstatement."
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, motor vehicle 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 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. 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 216-893-7828 or TTY 216-893-7755.