The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered a Missouri-based trucking company to pay a former driver more than $100,000 after determining the company violated anti-retaliatory provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
On Monday, Jan. 6, OSHA ordered New Prime Inc. of Springfield, Mo., to pay a New Jersey driver more than $41,000 in back wages and interest, $40,000 in compensatory damages, and $20,000 in punitive damages. In its order, OSHA stated the company “blacklisted” the driver on his DAC report after he opted not to return to work for the company after recovering from a work-related injury.
According to the DOL release, the driver notified his supervisor in October 2008 that he sustained an on-the-job back injury and was seeking medical attention. A month later, the driver provided documentation “that the condition was serious enough to prevent him from returning to work because he has been prescribed medications that made operating a commercial motor vehicle unsafe.”
After being released by his doctor to return to duty in July 2009, the driver opted not to return to New Prime and instead looked for employment elsewhere.
“After being rejected for a job, the driver learned New Prime Inc. had submitted damaging and misleading information about his employment to a provider of pre-employment and drug testing services,” according to the OSHA news release.
The driver then submitted a complaint to OSHA, alleging “violation of the anti-retaliatory provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.”
On Jan. 7 the Springfield News-Leader reported that New Prime plans to appeal OSHA’s recent ruling.
The OSHA order also requires New Prime Inc. to expunge the driver’s “employment and DAC report records of any reference to his unlawful termination.”
“Blacklisting an employee and sabotaging a worker’s career is unacceptable. It can have a dangerous ripple effect if employees are compelled to drive when unwell or under medication because they are afraid they will lose their livelihood,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York, in the DOL statement about the investigation.
“OSHA will not tolerate employers retaliating against its employees for reporting violations, including forcing employees to operate commercial motor vehicles when doing so would be unsafe for the driver and the public.”