Sept. 25, 2014
Stericycle Inc. ordered to reinstate Wichita, Kansas,
supervisor terminated for reporting safety concerns
WICHITA, Kan. – Stericycle Inc. has been found in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An investigation found the company wrongfully terminated a transportation supervisor at its Wichita terminal because the worker raised safety concerns after a driver was instructed to pull a trailer without a valid license plate.
OSHA has ordered the company to reinstate the employee, pay back wages and damages of $261,787, and remove any references to the disciplinary action from the employee's record. The company must also provide notification of whistleblower protection rights to its employees.
"When workers can't report safety concerns on the job without fear of losing it, worker safety and health suffers," said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City, Missouri. "OSHA is committed to protecting all workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights."
OSHA's investigation confirmed that the former employee engaged in protected activity when he reported safety concerns to management that drivers were told to violate U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. It was determined that his protected activity was a contributing factor in the company's decision to terminate his employment on Sept. 14, 2012, in direct violation of STAA.
The supervisor had been employed by Stericycle Inc., based in Lake Forest, Illinois, a specialist in biohazard waste disposal, and had not been disciplined or received an unsatisfactory employment report previously.
Either party in this case can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
STAA covers private sector drivers and other commercial motor carrier employees. Companies covered by STAA may not discharge their employees or retaliate against them for refusing to operate a vehicle that would violate a federal commercial motor vehicle rule related to safety, health, or security, or because they had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to themselves or to the public related to a vehicle's safety or security condition.
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, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, 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 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 to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
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Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Release Number: 14-1753-KAN
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