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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered a Nebraska company to provide back pay and damages to a truck driver who was wrongfully terminated and stranded in another state.
Falls City, Nebraska-based Jake Rieger Farms L.L.C. fired the unnamed employee last year for refusing to drive a company truck the Iowa Department of Transportation said was unsafe and lacked the proper registration, OSHA said Thursday in a statement.
The driver was directed to a repair shop, contacted his employer and returned to Nebraska in January 2015. Later that month, a co-worker drove the employee back to the Iowa repair shop and directed him to drive the vehicle back to Nebraska even though it still lacked the proper registration.
When the driver refused, Jake Rieger Farms fired him and forced him to find his own way home, a distance of about 170 miles, OSHA said in citing the company for violating the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
The company has been ordered to pay the driver $25,000 in punitive damages and $30,000 in compensatory damages, including back wages and compensation for distress.
“No worker should face termination for complying with federal laws which protect the safety of the motoring public,” Marcia Drumm, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Missouri said in a statement. “In this case, Jake Rieger Farms retaliated against an employee who refused to drive a truck that Iowa law enforcement deemed unsafe.”
A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
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