UPDATED -- An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that New Prime retaliated against a truck driver by blacklisting him in the commercial transport industry after he sought medical attention for a work-related injury.
OSHA has ordered the Springfield, Mo.-based motor carrier to pay the former employee $100,994.24 in back wages and damages plus take other corrective action.
The driver notified his supervisors in October 2008 that he sustained an on-the-job back injury and was seeking medical attention, according to OSHA. In November, he provided documentation that the condition was serious enough to prevent him from returning to work because he had been prescribed medications that made operating a commercial motor vehicle unsafe. In July 2009, the driver's physician released him for full duty. He opted not to return to New Prime and began seeking employment elsewhere in the industry.
After being rejected for a job, the driver learned New Prime had submitted damaging and misleading information about his employment to a provider of pre-employment and drug testing screening services, says OSHA The information appeared on the driver's DAC Report, an employment history submitted by former employers in the trucking industry. The driver submitted a complaint with OSHA, alleging violation of the anti-retaliatory provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
As a result, OSHA is ordering New Prime to pay the former employee lost wages, including interest, of $41,373.34, covering the time between July 1, 2009 and April 1, 2010; $40,000 in compensatory damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress and loss of home and property and $20,000 in punitive damages for what OSHA says is “in light of the company's reckless and callous disregard for the worker's rights under the STAA.” The company must also expunge the complainant's employment and DAC Report records of any reference to his unlawful termination.
"Blacklisting an employee and sabotaging a worker's career is unacceptable. It can have a dangerous ripple effect if employees are compelled to drive when unwell or under medication because they are afraid they will lose their livelihood," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York, whose offices conducted the investigation. "OSHA will not tolerate employers retaliating against its employees for reporting violations, including forcing employees to operate commercial motor vehicles when doing so would be unsafe for the driver and the public."
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department
New Prime may file objections or request a hearing before the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges within 30 days of receipt of OSHA's order, which it has indicated it will do, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
It told the newspaper, "Prime is appealing this investigative finding and litigation will begin shortly. The next step is to have a trial on the merits.”
Updated adds reaction from Prime.