A Connecticut-based trucking company owner has been ordered to pay $60,000 to two former workers, as well as drop a retaliatory lawsuit against them for their raising safety concerns.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has settled its whistleblower case against David Palumbo, owner of Palumbo Trucking Inc., of North Branford, Conn., after a truck driver and mechanic filed complaints with the North Branford Police Department and the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles in September 2012.
The employees had filed complaints with the agencies about “a potentially unsafe truck.”
Both were later discharged from employment “for reasons not related to their protected activities,” and the company’s owner filed a lawsuit against them, alleging “they intentionally and maliciously filed the complaint with the North Branford Police Department.”
According to the Department of Labor release, Palumbo has been ordered to pay each worker $20,000 apiece in punitive damages “for the filing and litigating of a lawsuit that was solely intended to retaliate against activities protected by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act – STAA,” as well as $10,000 each in compensatory damages.
Palumbo’s company has also been ordered to pay the former workers’ attorney’s fees related to the lawsuit and provide the former employees with a “neutral job reference.” The trucking company must also post information about workers’ rights under the STAA.
“Filing a baseless, retaliatory lawsuit against workers who engaged in protected activity has a profound chilling effect,” stated Marthe Kent, regional administrator for OSHA’s New England office, in a release about the Palumbo whistleblower case. “It can intimidate workers into remaining silent about safety and health concerns that could have consequences for them and others on the road.”
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