Trucking Whistleblower Gets Job Back Plus More Than $100,000 Damages
Trucker to Trucker, the ultimate source for trucks for sale and for buying trucking equipment focuses on the William Beecher whistleblower case:
Two years ago a trucker complained about poor maintenance work on his employer's truck equipment. The Memphis company, United Auto Delivery and Recovery (also known as Memphis Auto Auction) fired the driver, William Beecher shortly thereafter.
Beecher made a complaint to his supervisor regarding mechanical issues with a truck. He was advised to take the day off while the truck was repaired, but the next day he was fired instead.
Memphis Auto Auction employs 50 drivers and operates a vehicle repossession service covering the Midwest including auctioning off repossessed vehicles.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (the OSHA is a component agency of the US Department of Labor) ordered the company to reinstate Beecher in his old job. In addition, Memphis Auto Auction has been ordered to make restitution for back pay to Beecher in the amount of $111,000 including compensation for the firing together with interest.
The case follows on the heels of two OOIDA members who were fired after reporting a safety issue. Jack Martin and Curtis Firebaugh were both fired when they reported a welding issue with a leaf spring on equipment used by Bertolini Trucking. OSHA awarded $4,500 to each of the men, however Bertolini is no longer in business and that company filing for bankruptcy means the money is not likely to be ever paid out to the former employees.
According to the OSHA, employees have every right to expect to work with safe equipment and have a duty to report mechanical deficiencies to their employers free of the threat of being fired for following mandated safety procedures. Employers also have a legal duty to ensure that the equipment they use in the furtherance of their business is safe to use, and does not represent a threat to the employees and to the general public at large.
The administrative order underlines the determination of the OSHA to prevent employers from unfairly mistreating employees who report problems. The ruling also sends a powerful message to employers that they cannot engage in retaliatory tactics against employees who report safety issues to management.
The ruling can be appealed; however there is no information as to whether Memphis Auto Auctions will take this option.
The bottom line: if you are a trucker or employee who reports a safety issue, you have every expectation that your complaint will be treated and acted upon properly and fairly. Your employer cannot, by law, engage in retaliatory threats or action, or even fire you, for reporting a safety issue with equipment or your concerns over a particular operational practice.