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Trucking company ordered to pay up after illegally terminating driver

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered a New York trucking company to pay a fired employee more than $45,000 in lost wages, damages and fees after finding he was illegally terminated for notifying regulators of a workplace safety violation.

An OSHA investigation found that Meridale, New York-based Brindi Trailer Sales and Services Inc. and owner Robert Urbina Brindi violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, according to an agency news release issued Thursday. The 1982 legislation protects employees who file complaints about unsafe operation of commercial motor vehicles.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the legislation and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

Shortly after starting work with Mr. Brindi in 2011, the driver — who was not identified per Department of Labor policy for employee whistleblowers — notified the company of defective equipment on his truck, including ineffective brakes, steering issues, non-functioning turn signals, leaks and a cracked windshield. He requested these conditions be repaired, which the company refused to do, according to the release.

In February 2012, the driver contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which inspected the truck and found 16 violations. The truck was pulled from service until repairs were made, and the driver was summarily discharged after notifying Mr. Brindi.

The worker filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which ordered Mr. Brindi to pay the driver $32,642 in lost wages, $10,000 in punitive damages and $3,060.02 in attorney's fees and to expunge the driver's employment records.

“This driver was fired for doing the right thing,” Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York, said in a statement. “A defective truck is a danger not only to its driver, but to other motorists on the road. Commercial truck drivers have a legal right to report safety issues to their employer without fear of termination or retaliation. Violating the law can put workers at risk and has costly consequences for the offending employer.”

A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.