OSHA Fines Trucking Firm over Driver Suspension

July 24, 2015

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Oak Harbor Freight Lines to stop retaliating against truck drivers who refuse to drive when sick or fatigued.

OSHA has ordered the trucking company to pay $20,000 in punitive damages and $354 to a driver who was suspended without pay after he said he did not feel well enough to drive.

The driver filed a whistleblower complaint, claiming the carrier's action was a violation of safe operating rules under the Surface Transportation Safety Act.

OSHA investigators concluded that the company’s attendance policy encouraged 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.

OSHA said that it has asked Oak Harbor to change its attendance policy, but the company has not yet complied. This is the second instance of which OSHA found Oak Harbor had retaliated against a driver who invoked federal safety rules, the agency said.

In a report from the Auburn Reporter, Oak Hill responded saying that OSHA had filed the complaint on behalf of the driver and that he had not filed a complaint on his own. The company also reiterated the importance it places on employee and public safety stating, “Oak Harbor Freight Lines holds the safety of our employees and the motoring public as a first priority.”

"Forcing ill or tired drivers behind the wheel puts their lives and the lives of others at risk," said Ken Atha, OSHA Regional Administrator in Seattle. "Oak Harbor's continued refusal to revise its attendance policy shows a reckless and callous indifference to employees' rights and public safety."

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