OSHA Orders Trucking Company To Pay Whistleblower

                               

Hartford, CT (WorkersCompensation.com)- A nonoperational commercial motor carrier, Universal Trucking Solutions LLC, and its co-owner Juan Ramirez have been found guilty by OSHA of violating the whistleblower protections of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).

After a complaint about the company and the owner by a former driver, An OHSA investigation following a complaint about the company and its owner allegedly revealed that the company and Ramirez retaliated against one of their drivers who repeatedly voiced concerns to management about faulty vehicle maintenance. The alleged violations included missing or inoperative headlights and air pressure leaks, in addition to a company direction to violate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hours of service regulations while driving.  Ramirez and management ended up changing all the drivers’ work schedules, resulting in a pay cut for them.

Back in February 2017, the driver who later complained resigned after concerns that U.S. Department of Transportation officials would take away his Commercial Driver's License, and that his livelihood and life could be lost because of defective trucks and because his employer forced drivers to ignore hours-of-service rules.

"Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health,” said OSHA's Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston, Mass., in a press release. “This order reinforces the agency's commitment to protecting workers who exercise their right to a safe workplace, and refuse to place themselves and the public at risk."

Following the investigation, United Trucking Solutions and Ramirez were ordered to take the following corrective actions: 

  • The company must pay the driver $8,315.81 in back pay and interest, $75,000 in punitive damages, and $50,000 in compensatory damages for mental pain and emotional distress;
  • Pay $21,378.05 in reasonable attorneys’ fees to the complainant’s attorneys; and
  • Refrain from retaliating or discriminating against the complainant in any manner for exercising STAA rights.

Either party is allowed to appeal the order that was handed down to the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

 


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