OSHA has ordered an Arizona trucking company to reinstate an employee and pay him $315,000 in back wages and damages. The employee said his co-driver shouldn’t smoke while hauling explosives — a violation of federal regulations.
M3 Transport/SLT Expressway must pay the former employee $280,000 in back wages and interest, $15,000 in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages.
The driver refused to drive a truck containing explosives with a co-driver who smoked in the vehicle, a violation of Department of Transportation regulations.
A complaint the driver filed alleged that on Feb. 8, 2010, he was informed a new co-driver had been assigned to haul a vehicle full of explosives to Canada. The driver found an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts in the new co-driver’s truck and notified his supervisors that he wouldn’t drive with this co-worker because smoking while hauling explosives violates federal regulations.
The driver who complained was told to go home and wait to be assigned a new co-driver, but he was terminated two days later.
OSHA has also ordered the company to:
- expunge any adverse references relating to the termination from the driver’s personnel records, and
- post a notice for all employees notifying them of their rights to raise safety problems under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).
M3 specializes in transporting explosives for military and defense contractors. The company has 30 from receiving OSHA’s decision to contest the order.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of federal regulations, including safety rules.
Companies are prohibited by law from retaliating against employees who raise various concerns to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe they are victims of such retaliation can file complaints with OSHA’s parent agency, the Department of Labor.
Recently, OSHA has issued several decisions against companies who fired employees in retaliation for reporting safety problems at work.