A Michigan asphalt firm was ordered to reinstate three former employees and pay nearly $1 million in backpay and damages after OSHA investigated reports of illegal safety practices and wrongful termination.
In 2012, a foreman was fired by Asphalt Specialists Inc., after reporting that he was ordered to violate OSHA regulations and standards set by the Department of Transportation. The violations included being ordered to ignore mandated 10-hour rest periods between shifts to ensure job assignments were completed. Then, between 2012 and 2013, the firm fired two of its commercial truck drivers for filing complaints regarding shift demands, as well as refusing to sign affidavits refuting the former foreman's claims.
According to OSHA, "[the employee] rightfully refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner, which potentially could cause serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public."
"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," Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels said in a statement.
OSHA ordered the firm to reinstate all three employees, paying the foreman back wages of $147,457, $50,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages. The two truck drivers are to be paid $44,379 and $55,080 in back wages, respectively, as well as $230,000 in damages each.
While it is unusual for safety related news to face the direction of rehiring, rather than firing, the focus on safety by these workers is laudable. Accident prevention is a critical concern in the construction industry, and OSHA compliance is set in place to protect both workers and the public from incidents occurring from sleep deprivation and other potential issues.