OSHA issued its Final Rule implementing the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act [STAA].
As a result of the 9/11 Commission Act Amendments, the whistleblower protections of the STAA were expanded to reach beyond safety to include security issues.
The STAA protections now make it unlawful to retaliate because an employee:
· has filed (or is believed to have filed or is about to file) a complaint regarding a violation of commercial motor vehicle[CMV] safety or security laws or regulations; or
· refuses to operate a vehicle in violation of regulations, standards, or orders related to CMV security; or.
· refuses to operate a vehicle because he or she has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to himself or herself or the public due to the vehicle’s hazardous security condition; or
· accurately reports hours of duty; or
· cooperates with federal or local investigators regarding CMV safety or security;
· or provides information to federal or local regulatory or law enforcement agency about any accident or incident resulting in injury or death to an individual or damage to property occurring in connection with CMV transportation.
The OSHA Final Rule spells out how OSHA will handle and investigate whistleblower complaints. The OSHA Final Rule provides a useful guide for employers in the trucking industry and specifies that OSHA will provide the complainant or his/her representative with a copy of the employer’s response to the whistleblower complaint, redacting confidential information as necessary. The complainant will also receive a copy of materials that OSHA provides to the employer.
We anticipate that more of these whistleblower actions will be filed against employers, particularly because the amendments to the STAA authorize awards of punitive damages up to $250,000.
By Don Benson