OSHA has ordered a defunct motor carrier company based in Hartford and its owner to pay more than $150,000 in back wages, damages, and legal fees for retaliating against a former driver who filed a whistleblower complaint.
Federal investigators determined that Universal Trucking Solutions LLC and owner Juan Ramirez retaliated by intentionally cutting the unnamed driver’s hours, resulting in a pay cut.
The driver resigned from Universal Trucking Solutions LLC in February 2017 after growing worried that federal officials would confiscate his commercial driver’s license, that his livelihood or life could be a risk from driving defective trucks, and because Universal Trucking Solutions forced the driver to ignore hours-of-service rules, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a release.
"OSHA investigators found that the company and Ramirez retaliated against a driver who repeatedly voiced concerns to management about faulty vehicle maintenance—including missing or inoperative headlights and air pressure leaks—and the company’s direction to violate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hours of service regulations while driving," officials said.
After investigating, OSHA ordered the company and Ramirez to:
- Pay the driver $8,315 in back pay and interest, $75,000 in punitive damages, and $50,000 in compensatory damages for mental pain and emotional distress
- Pay $21,378 in reasonable attorney’s fees to the driver’s attorneys
- Refrain from retaliating or discriminating against the driver for exercising rights under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act
"Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health," said OSHA New England regional administrator Galen Blanton.
"This order reinforces the agency's commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to a safe workplace, and refuse to place themselves and the public at risk."
Either party may appear the order to the labor department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).