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Contractor to Pay Whistleblowers $1M

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Two drivers and a foreman who were fired by a Michigan paving contractor after raising safety concerns will receive nearly $1 million in back wages and damages under a federal settlement.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ruled that Asphalt Specialists Inc., of Pontiac, wrongfully terminated the three employees and must reinstate them.

The contractor was found in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act for firing the three, who had been ordered to violate U.S. Department of Transportation mandated hours of service for commercial truck drivers.

Asphalt Specialists
Asphalt Specialists Inc.

One employee refused to sign a false affidavit rebutting allegations made by a former foreman who was fired, according to OSHA.

In addition to reinstating the employees to their former positions with all pay and benefits, 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 Detroit-area contractor provides a wide range of asphalt paving, milling, grading, repair, construction and reconstruction services.

27-Hour Shifts

“It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report work-related safety concerns or violations of federal transportation regulations, which require drivers to have a minimum 10-hour rest period between shifts,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

“OSHA is committed to protecting workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights.”

According to OSHA, the foreman was fired June 30, 2012, after repeatedly raising concerns to the company’s co-owner about job assignments that repeatedly failed to allow for the federally mandated 10-hour rest period.

"At least twice, the foreman and the crew were expected to work more than 27 hours straight," OSHA said.

The foreman "rightfully refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner, which could potentially cause serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public," the agency said.

Back Pay and Damages

The foreman will  receive his back wages as well as $50,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.

Asphalt Specialists

The foreman and crew were expected to work more than 27 hours straight, OSHA said.

A second driver was fired April 26, 2013, also after raising concerns about the number of hours he was required to work. The drivers also refused to sign an affidavit denying that he had been required to work an illegal number of hours—an affidavit the company was trying to use to rebut the fired foreman's claims, OSHA said.

A third driver was fired July 8, 2013, after raising concerns about vehicle maintenance and the number of hours they were expected to drive.

Under the settlement, each driver will receive his back wages as well as $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.

Any of the parties in this case may file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA does not publicly identify whistleblowers.

OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of public transportation agency, maritime, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, and other laws.

   

Tagged categories: Asphalt; Commercial contractors; Concrete repair; Health and safety; OSHA; Regulations; Rehabilitation/Repair; Roads/Highways

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