US Labor Department's OSHA orders Georgia-based Interline Logistics Group
to reinstate, pay more than $190,000 to terminated whistleblower in Illinois
SAUK VILLAGE, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Interline Logistics Group LLC to immediately reinstate a truck driver in Sauk Village, who was terminated after reporting safety concerns about the brakes on his truck and refusing to violate U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for allowable driving and rest hours. OSHA also has ordered the company to pay the driver more than $190,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages, and to refrain from retaliating against the employee for exercising rights guaranteed under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act's whistleblower provision.
The driver filed a timely whistleblower complaint with OSHA, alleging termination after notifying the company about the deficient brakes. OSHA found that the company had directed the driver to a repair shop to service the brakes and upon completion of the service call, the driver was instructed to proceed to his dispatch location to pick up a return load. The driver declined to do so, stating he was over the work hours allowed according to DOT regulations. The following day, the driver was terminated for stated reasons including failing to follow dispatch instructions, according to the company. However, OSHA's investigation found reasonable cause to believe that the disciplinary charges and termination were not based on the driver breaking a company work rule but on reporting a safety issue and refusing to violate DOT regulations.
"This case sends a clear message that employers are simply not allowed to retaliate against workers for reporting work-related safety concerns or against drivers who refuse to violate DOT regulations that determine how many hours they are allowed to work and how much rest they receive," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "The safety of all workers and everyone on the road is endangered when employees are afraid to report safety concerns because of threats from their employers."
Interline Logistics Group is headquartered in Kennesaw, Ga., and operates nationwide. Either party to the case can file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such an appeal does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provision of the STAA as well as provisions of 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, public transportation, workplace, consumer product, and health care and financial reform laws. Under these laws enacted by Congress, 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 for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets with information on how to file a complaint with OSHA, 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, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.