The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered a Oregon-based trucking company owner to rehire and pay a former driver more than $115,200 in back wages after its investigation concluded that she was fired after refusing to drive a truck with a bad tire.
According to Vicky Coleman, OSHA’s supervisory investigator for Region 10, the driver had the tire replaced before driving the truck and was fired eight days later by company owner Terry Unrein of Gresham, Ore., after raising the safety concern. The driver then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA in 2011, stating the company violated whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by firing her for refusing to operate unsafe equipment.
“All the driver has to show is that their safety concern contributed to the reason why they were fired,” Coleman told Land Line.
Coleman said Unrein had five drivers working for his company in 2011 when the OSHA whistleblower complaint was filed.
Unrein plans to appeal OSHA’s decision and has requested a hearing before an administrative law judge, according to Coleman. She said the ALJ review process may take a year to complete.
Unrein states the driver was fired after being involved in an accident. However, Coleman said OSHA did not find “evidence to support his claim” during the course of its investigation.
Besides the $115,200 in back wages and the order to rehire the driver, Unrein may be forced to pay $2,600 in attorney’s fees.
“Our investigation found that her concerns about the equipment, in this case a bad tire, did contribute to the reason why she was fired,” Coleman said.
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