The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) protects private-sector drivers and other employees working for commercial motor carriers. The STAA has certain whistleblower protections, meaning employers cannot fire or retaliate against employees who refuse to work in unsafe conditions.
Unsafe conditions could include anything that violates a federal regulation related to safety, health or security while operating commercial motor vehicles. If employees have a reasonable concern about injuring themselves or the public, they can refuse their employer’s request without fear of retaliation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently required Asphalt Services Inc. (ASI) to pay more than $1 million for violating the STAA. According to reports, the company wrongly terminated three employees who tried to inform management about working conditions.
The foreman for ASI was terminated in June 2012, after repeatedly voicing concerns about his workers’ long hours. The STAA requires a 10-hour rest period between jobs, but the drivers were often expected to work more than 27 hours straight.
He refused to operate his vehicle for fear of injury to himself or the public and was terminated for his trouble. OSHA ordered ASI to pay the man $147,457 in unpaid wages, $50,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
The second driver was terminated in April 2012, after he refused to sign a falsified document stating that he was never asked to work excessive hours. That employee also tried to voice concerns about the drivers’ work schedule, but the company ignored him as well.
The third driver lost his job for trying to bring attention to issues with vehicle maintenance. Both men received back wages, as well as $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages. All three men were reinstated to their original positions.
Do I Have Whistleblower Protections?
These men did all they could to follow federal regulations, and OSHA supported them when their rights were violated. Most jobs offer some form of whistleblower protection, but some workers are not aware of their rights and protections, leaving them vulnerable to abuse.
At Larrimer & Larrimer, we want to encourage workers to fight for their right to work safely. If you have been wrongly terminated, our workers’ comp attorneys want to talk to you. Share your story on Facebook
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—Columbus Workers Comp Attorneys