Driver Wins Whistleblower Case Involving Unsafe Truck

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A former truck driver who raised concerns that an unrepaired truck at his former company was unsafe to operate was a victor as a federal court approved the settlement of a U.S. Department of Labor OSHA whistleblower investigation that found the company violated federal law against retaliation.

The driver also reported a workplace injury at his former employer, a Northbrook, Illinois, waste management company.

U.S. District Court Judge Manish S. Shah in the Northern District of Illinois entered a consent judgment and order on July 6, ordering Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest to pay the driver $95,000 in lost wages–minus applicable payroll taxes–and provide future prospective employers a neutral employment recommendation. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

The court’s action follows an OSHA investigation finding that after the truck driver cited concerns about a vehicle’s safety hazards, a company manager assigned the vehicle to a different driver. The manager then assigned the concerned truck driver to a vehicle with which they were unfamiliar.

While operating the vehicle, the driver injured a finger and needed light duty to recover. A company investigation faulted the driver for the injury. The company later fired the driver after management suspected them of reporting unsafe working conditions to the company’s hotline.

OSHA determined that the truck driver’s dismissal was in retaliation for their protected activities under the whistleblower protections of Occupational Safety and Health Act’s Section 11(c). OSHA filed a complaint in federal court seeking compensation for the driver for unlawful termination.

“We commend this worker for standing up for their rights after suffering an injury and reporting workplace safety hazards that had the potential to injure other workers,” said OSHA acting regional administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “Federal whistleblower laws protect workers from retaliation for reporting injuries and unsafe working conditions.”

In addition to payment of lost wages and neutral future employment recommendations, the court ordered Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest to add a copy of the order to the employee’s personnel record and post a notice of whistleblower rights in a common area at its Northbrook facility.

(In October 2020, Waste Management of Houston, Texas, acquired Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest.)

Source: OSHA