Under terms of a consent judgment, a now defunct North Canton, Ohio-based company, Star Air Inc., and owner Robert R. Custer, will pay two Ohio truck drivers $302,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor for terminating two of the company’s drivers in violation of the 1982 Surface Transportation Assistance Act’s whistleblower provisions. Akron Reserve Ammunition Inc., was also named a defendant in the lawsuit because the department alleges that the company, which is owned by Custer, is the successor to Star Air.
“These drivers were fired for trying to protect themselves and the driving public,” said David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “No truck driver should be forced to drive while tired, sick or in violation of truck weight or hours-of-service requirements. OSHA will continue to defend America’s truck drivers against unscrupulous employers who unlawfully retaliate against drivers who assert their right to drive safely.”
The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
The drivers were dismissed after one was stopped by West Virginia State Police and cited for: hauling an excess load without a commercial driver’s license, operating an overweight trailer and driving without a logbook. The commercial vehicle also did not have the name of the company, its home base or its U.S. Department of Transportation number displayed. The driver who was cited informed another driver, who was also operating without the proper information displayed, and they refused to continue driving until these issues were resolved. Consequently, both were terminated.
Both drivers filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging that Star Air had discriminated against them in retaliation for activities protected by the STAA, and a Labor Department administrative law judge issued the order for reinstatement and back wages. Under automatic review provisions, the judge’s decision then was referred to and upheld by the Administrative Review Board, which issues final decisions for the secretary of labor in cases arising under a wide range of worker protection laws.
The companies and Custer will pay the $302,000 agreed upon amount over a three-year period. If any party defaults on payments, the court can order the payment of the entire amount awarded in the judgment, which is $685,785.22. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, in Akron made the ruling. The department is represented by its Regional Office of the Solicitor in Cleveland.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health-care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. More information is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.