May 31, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered United Parcel Service to pay an Earth City, Mo., truck driver $111,008 in back wages, benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney's fees. OSHA investigated the employee's allegation that Atlanta, Ga.-based UPS terminated his employment in retaliation for his refusal to drive after raising safety concerns. OSHA's investigation found the driver was terminated after refusing to drive the vehicle because of inoperable lights on the trailer and tractor. The evidence showed the driver had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to himself and the public. Although the driver notified UPS management of the unsafe conditions, the employer continued to order the unsafe operation of the vehicle. "It is vital that employees be able to raise safety concerns to their employers without fear of retaliation," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, whose office investigated the complaint. "This order reaffirms both the right of drivers to refuse to operate vehicles when they reasonably believe it is unsafe and OSHA's commitment to taking the necessary steps to protect that right." As a result of the investigation, OSHA has ordered UPS to pay the employee $1,858 in back wages and interest, $483.04 in hotel and mileage expenses to attend a grievance hearing, $5,000 in compensatory damages, $100,000 in punitive damages and $3,667 in attorney's fees. The employer further has been ordered to remove all disciplinary action from the employee's personnel file due to the work refusal and to provide whistleblower rights information to its workers. Either party in the case can file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. OSHA conducted the investigation under the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of STAA and 16 other laws protecting employees who report violations of various securities, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, workplace safety and health, and consumer product safety laws. Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, 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 they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with OSHA. 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 assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. Link to story.