OSHA Has Whistleblower Reinstated


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Zurla Trucking of Fort Myers, FL has been ordered to reinstate a truck driver and whistleblower who was fired for calling attention to safety issues. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandated the move. OSHA, which falls under the authority  of the Department of Labor, has been criticized recently for doing a very poor job of running the whistleblower protections program and this may be viewed as a positive step.

The whistleblower has not been identified as per federal law that protects the identities and families of whistleblowers. The employee was fired in February of 2008 after he refused to operate trucks that were identified as unsafe. It is a violation of federal law to fire employees who will not operate vehicles that do not meet federal safety standards.

The company must pay compensatory damages, back wages plus interest and delete any adverse references related to the discharge from the employee’s personnel file. Zurla Trucking has been ordered to pay $125,000 in punitive damages as well.

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) was the source of the violation that led to OSHA actions. The STAA prohibits discharge and discrimination against employees that refuse to operate equipment that violate federal safety standards, orders and regulations. The act also protects employees and whistleblowers who deem equipment unsafe for the employee or the general public.

According to Cindy Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta, “OSHA is committed to enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the STAA, and we will not tolerate employers that attempt to retaliate against workers whose rights are protected by this law.”

OSHA is responsible for the enforcement of 18 different federal statues that provide protection for whistleblowers along with the Occupational Safety and Health Act, several environmental regulations and the STAA.

Activists are hoping that cases like this one means an improvement in OSHA performance and enforcement and will encourage more employees to come forward for the safety of their communities.






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