Federal authorities have ordered a California trucking company to reinstate a truck driver and pay $220,000 in back pay and damages, finding the carrier violated federal whistleblower protections when it fired the employee for refusing to drive an overweight vehicle.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that JHOS Logistics and Transportation Inc. violated the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Act when it terminated the driver. The Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report violations, misconduct and other wrongdoing.
According to OSHA, two months before the termination, the driver received a violation for operating an overweight tractor-trailer. The load the driver was supposed to haul was similar in size to the illegally heavy load, so the driver’s refusal to transport it was reasonable and justified, OSHA said.
OSHA ordered JHOS to pay the driver more than $190,000 in back wages, $25,000 in punitive damages, and $5,000 in compensatory damages and attorney fees.
In addition to the monetary penalties and reinstating the driver, the trucking company must also train managers and post notices informing its employees about their rights and protections under the Surface Transportation Act.
“This order underscores the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to protect employees who report violations under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Barbara Goto in a statement. “OSHA enforces the legal provisions of the act, which protects employees who exercise their right to report health and safety concerns with commercial motor vehicles.”
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities, and tax laws and for engaging in other protected activities.
Beasley Allen has a Whistleblower Litigation Team in place to handle whistleblower retaliation claims. Due to our firm’s heavy involvement in whistleblower litigation, there was a definite need for the creation of a team specializing in whistleblower cases. Corporate wrongdoing can and has put workers and the American public at risk, ad whistleblowers should be thanked and rewarded for calling out these risks instead of being punished for them.
A person who has been terminated from his or her job for refusing to risk their lives or the lives of others may have a whistleblower case. Before you report suspected fraud or other wrongdoing – before you “blow the whistle” – it is important to make sure you have a valid claim and that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Beasley Allen’s group of lawyers dedicated to handling whistleblower cases can navigate you the oftentimes risky and complex litigation.
Lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team are Lance Gould, Larry Golston, Lauren Miles, Leon Hampton, Leslie Pescia, Paul Evans and Tyner Helms. If you are aware of fraud being committed against the federal or state governments, you could be rewarded for reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, you can contact a lawyer at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim.