A motor carrier in Missouri has been ordered to pay a former employee back wages and damages of $100,994.24. A Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation showed that the truck driver suffered a work-related back injury in October of 2008 and notified supervisors at the trucking company that he was seeking medical attention for the condition. Later on, the employer allegedly blacklisted the man when he attempted to find work elsewhere.
The employee was unable to return to work in November due to the serious nature of his back injuries, which required prescription medication that could make it unsafe to drive a truck. He was released by his doctor in July 2009, but decided not to return to work at the trucking company.
While seeking work in other areas of the trucking industry, he discovered that negative and deceptive information regarding his employment history had been provided by his former employer, causing his job applications to be rejected. OSHA received a complaint from the driver, who claimed the former employer violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act’s anti-retaliatory provisions.
The sum that OSHA ordered the company to pay included punitive damages of $20,000, lost wages plus interest in the amount of $41,373.34 for July 2009 through April 2010, and compensatory damages of $40,000. In addition, the company was ordered to remove all references to the employee’s unlawful termination from DAC Report and employment records.
Blacklisting a former employee is unacceptable by OSHA standards, especially since the fear of it can cause employees to work under unsafe conditions — or to drive a commercial vehicle and endanger others while taking prescription drugs as in this story. Anyone who has suffered this type of exploitation of employee rights may have a valid legal claim against the employer.
Source: OSHA, “US Labor Department’s OSHA orders Missouri trucking company to pay more than $100,000 to blacklisted driver from New Jersey Company found to have violated anti-retaliation protection provided whistleblowers“, Leni Fortson & Joanna Hawkins, January 06, 2014