Jan. 21, 2016
NEW YORK – All the truck driver wanted was a safe vehicle to operate. His employer fired him instead.
In so doing, Brindi Trailer Sales and Services Inc. of Meridale, New York, and owner Robert Urbina Brindi violated the anti-discrimination provisions* of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found.
“This driver was fired for doing the right thing. A defective truck is a danger not only to its driver but to other motorists on the road. Commercial truck drivers have a legal right to report safety issues to their employer without fear of termination or retaliation. Violating the law can put workers at risk and has costly consequences for the offending employer,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.
Shortly after starting work with Brindi in 2011, the driver began notifying the company of defective equipment on his truck, including ineffective brakes, steering issues, non-functioning turn signals, leaks and a cracked windshield. He requested these conditions be repaired. The company refused. In February 2012, the driver contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which inspected the truck and found 16 violations. The truck was pulled from service until repairs were made. The driver notified Brindi and was summarily discharged.
The worker filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which found merit to the complaint. OSHA has now ordered Brindi to pay the driver $32,642, 20 in lost wages, $10,000 in punitive damages and $3,060.02 in attorney’s fees and to expunge the driver’s employment records. The employee and Brindi each have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.