A trucking company has been ordered by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to pay $20,000 in punitive damages to a driver after suspending the driver for refusing to drive for feeling ill.
Oak Harbor Freight Lines, Inc. was ordered for a second time in the last two years to stop retaliating against drivers who refuse to drive when they feel too ill or fatigued. The company suspended the driver, who has 25 years experience, without pay for saying he didn’t feel well enough to drive.
Oak Harbor has the option to appeal the settlement, which would send the case to court.
OSHA investigators say they found the company’s attendance policy encourages drivers to operate trucks while sick or exhausted. Drivers absent due to illness or exhaustion had negative notes placed in their personnel records and faced possible discipline or termination, OHSA says, adding that it repeatedly asked Oak Harbor to change the attendance policy, but the company has not complied.
In addition to the damages and compensation for the suspension, OSHA has ordered Oak Harbor to remove any negative comments from the driver’s personnel file. Both the driver and the company may file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
The driver filed a whistleblower complaint, citing violation of safe operating rules under the Surface Transportation Safety Act, which protects drivers from retaliation by employers for refusing to drive when doing so would violate safety laws.