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Trucking firm ordered to reinstate whistle-blower, pay $315,000

Trucking firm ordered to reinstate whistle-blower, pay $315,000

A trucking firm has been ordered to reinstate a whistle-blower truck driver who refused to drive an explosive-filled truck with a co-driver who smoked and pay $315,000 in back wages and damages, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Tuesday.

OSHA said it ordered M3 Transport L.L.C./SLT Expressway Inc., and its successors in interest, Lyons Capital L.L.C. and Glendale, Ariz.-based Roadmaster Group, to pay the truck driver $315,000 for allegedly violating the whistle-blower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

According to a statement, the truck driver said he was informed in February 2010 that a new co-driver had been assigned to him to haul explosives to Canada.

“Upon finding an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts in the new co-driver's truck, the employee notified supervisors that driving with this individual would be unacceptable because smoking while hauling explosives violates federal regulations,” OSHA said in the statement.

The truck driver was then told by management to go home and wait to be reassigned a new co-driver. He was terminated two days later.

The award reflects $280,000 in back wages and interest, $15,000 in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages, OSHA said. The federal agency does not release the names of employees involved in whistle-blower complaints.

“Firing or otherwise retaliating against workers who raise safety concerns is unacceptable and against the law,” Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA's regional administrator in San Francisco, said in the statement. “OSHA will not tolerate this type of behavior, and the Labor Department will actively pursue appropriate legal remedies in such cases.”

A Roadmaster spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.