An asphalt paving company has been found in violation of federal rules by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for wrongfully terminating an unnamed foreman plus two unnamed truck drivers after they raised safety concerns after being told to violate hours of service regulations.
Asphalt Specialists Inc., headquartered in Pontiac, Mich., was ordered to reinstate the three employees to their former positions with all pay, benefits and rights, due to violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
The company was ordered to pay a total of $953,916 in damages: $243,916 in back wages to the drivers, $110,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages.
The foreman was terminated from employment on June 30, 2012. He repeatedly raised concerns to the company's co-owner about exceeding hours of service when job assignments repeatedly failed to allow for the federally mandated 10-hour rest period, according to OSHA. It said at least twice, the foreman and the crew were expected to work more than 27 hours straight and refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner, which could potentially cause serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public.
OSHA has ordered the foreman to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $147,457, $50,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
One truck driver was terminated from employment on April 26, 2013. OSHA said he also raised concerns about the number of work hours required by the company, and refused to sign an affidavit denying he was required to work in excess of the number hours legally permitted. Asphalt Specialists sought the affidavit to use in their response to the agency investigation of the fired foreman's claims, according to OSHA.
OSHA has ordered this driver to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $44,379, $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
Another driver was terminated from employment on July 8, 2013, after raising concerns about vehicle maintenance and about the number of hours they were expected to drive, according to the agency.
OSHA has ordered the driver to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $52,080, $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act covers private-sector drivers and other employees of commercial motor carriers. Companies covered by the STAA may not discharge their employees or retaliate against them for refusing to operate a vehicle because doing so would either violate a federal commercial motor vehicle rule related to safety, health or security; or because the employee had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to themselves or the public because of a vehicle's safety or security condition. This is often called the "whistleblower" provision of the law.
Any of the parties in this case can file an appeal over the agency’s decisions in the case.