OSHA orders carrier to pay $115k to driver in refusal to drive case

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An truck driver has been awarded $115,000 in back wages and been reinstated at her former job after the Department of Labor deemed she was wrongfully terminated for refusing to drive.

The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration has ordered Terry Unrein, a contractor based in Gresham, Ore., to reinstate the driver, who he fired in 2011 after she refused to drive her truck that she said had inadequate tread.

The tire’s tread depth violated federal rules, OSHA says, and the firing was deemed retaliatory and violated provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

“We will enforce whistleblower provisions to the fullest extent of the law to protect employees, who should not be retaliated against for following the law,” said Ken Atha, acting OSHA regional administrator.

The driver filed a whistleblower complaint after the firing. The decision can be appealed to the DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced they’ll be collaborating on cases like this to better assist truck operators in potential whistleblower claims.