The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered UPS Ground Freight to pay compensation and back wages to a driver who experienced retaliation after refusing to operate a truck without an electronic logging device.
The retaliatory actions of UPS violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), OSHA ruled. The agency ordered UPS to pay the driver $15,273 in compensatory damages, $30,000 in punitive damages and approximately $2,700 in back wages plus interest.
The violations occurred at the UPS facility in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
“OSHA investigators determined that—in March 2019—the driver refused in good faith to drive a truck without either a permanent ELD or a mounting device for a portable ELD because he believed doing so would violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR),” OSHA stated in a news release.
“Investigators also determined that the driver’s supervisor was not trained on FMCSR’s requirements for ELDs, and that company managers attempted to coerce the complainant into violating the regulation. When he refused, the company terminated him for ‘gross insubordination.’ The investigation revealed that the company later modified the driver’s termination to a suspension and engaged in post-reinstatement harassment.”
In addition to compensating the driver, OSHA also ordered UPS to take “additional corrective actions to resolve violations of the whistleblower provisions of STAA.” The actions include:
- Clear the driver’s personnel file of any reference to the issues involved in the investigation;
- Post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under STAA;
- Refrain from firing or discriminating against any employee who engages in STAA-protected activity; and
- Not use a driver’s refusal to drive because of a good faith concern that doing so would violate a FMCSR as a contributing factor in any termination decision.
The FMCSR require drivers to use ELDs and companies to provide vehicles with a permanent ELD or a portable ELD to track hours of service, said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton.
“Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health,” he said. “This order underscores the agency’s commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to ensure the safety of themselves and the general public.”
OSHA, a division of the Department of Labor, enforces the whistleblower provisions of STAA and more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws, according to the agency
The Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.