OSHA ordered UPS Ground Freight, doing business as UPS Freight, to compensate a driver wrongfully terminated and harassed for refusing to drive in violation of federal motor carrier safety regulations.
OSHA ordered UPS Freight to pay the driver $15,273 in compensatory damages, $30,000 in punitive damages, and approximately $2,700 in back wages plus interest.
“Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health,” Galen Blanton, OSHA’s regional administrator in Boston, Massachusetts, said in a statement.
“This order underscores the agency’s commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to ensure the safety of themselves and the general public.”
The agency determined that managers at UPS Freight’s Londonderry, New Hampshire, facility retaliated against a driver. The driver had refused to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) that did not have either a permanent electronic logging device (ELD) or a mounting device for a portable ELD.
The driver refused in good faith to drive a truck without either a permanent ELD or a mounting device for a portable ELD, OSHA determined in its investigation of the whistleblower complaint. The driver believed doing so would violate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ELD regulations. OSHA concluded that UPS Freight violated sections of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) by terminating the driver.
The agency affirmed that FMCSA regulations required the driver to use an ELD and the company to provide a vehicle with either a permanent ELD or a portable ELD mounted in a fixed position during his assigned route.
ELDs automatically record a CMV operator’s driving time and facilitate the accurate recording of a driver’s hours of service.
OSHA investigators determined that the driver’s supervisor was not trained on the FMCSA’s requirements for ELDs and that company managers attempted to coerce the driver into violating the regulation.
When the driver refused to violate the ELD regulations, the company terminated him for “gross insubordination.”
UPS Freight later modified the driver’s termination to a suspension and engaged in post-reinstatement harassment, OSHA investigators found.
OSHA Corrective Actions
OSHA also ordered UPS Freight to take corrective actions to resolve the company’s violations of the whistleblower provisions of the STAA, including:
- Clearing the driver’s personnel file of any reference to the issues involved in the investigation;
- Posting a notice in the workplace informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under the STAA;
- Refraining from firing or discriminating against any employee who engages in STAA-protected activity; and
- Not using a driver’s refusal to drive because of a good-faith concern that doing so would violate FMCSA regulations as a contributing factor in any termination decision.
In addition to enforcing the whistleblower protection provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and more than 20 other whistleblower statutes. OSHA has enforcement authority to protect employees who report violations of federal statutes that include the Affordable Care Act, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and transportation safety laws such as the STAA, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), and Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR 21).