Truck Drivers Awarded $116K After Being Fired For Refusing to Operate ‘Unsafe’ Semi
Oklahoma City, OK – The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has sided with two Oklahoma truck drivers after they were terminated for refusing to operate trucks they deemed “unsafe.”
According to OSHA, the Oklahoma City branch of Gulfeagle Supply terminated two truck drivers in August 2020 after they reported to a manager that tires on a company semi-truck were not suitable for operation.
OSHA asserts the drivers were “concerned about their own safety and that of others on the road.”
The drivers were subsequently terminated for their refusal to operate the trucks with the “unsafe” tires.
Following termination, both drivers reported the incident to OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program (WPP).
According to OSHA, WPP “enforces the whistleblower provisions of 25 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities and tax laws, and for engaging in other related protected activities.”
An investigation was opened, which ultimately determined Gulfeagle violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).
The STAA states, in part, an employee may not be terminated for refusal to operate a vehicle if the “employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of the vehicle’s hazardous safety or security condition.”
Gulfeagle was ordered to reinstate the terminated employees and pay each driver more than $23,000 in back wages.
Additionally, Gulfeagle was also ordered to pay $70,000 in punitive damages.
Additionally, Gulfeagle was ordered to train managers and employees on workers’ rights under the STAA.
“Federal law helps make our roads safer by empowering truck drivers to refuse to drive trucks not properly maintained,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric Harbin. “OSHA is committed to protecting workers who do what’s right when it comes to their safety and that of others.”
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The two drivers were not identified, as the DOL does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Gulfeagle is headquartered in Tampa, FL and has 80 roofing and building products locations in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
The company may appeal the order to the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
Photo courtesy Gulfeagle