If you are in trucking today it is more likely than not that you have one of these in your office. It might be your star player or the low man on the totem pole. It might even be you. But the fact is that one day OSHA may come to visit and put a price on the head of one or more of your dispatchers and you’re going to have to pay that price like it or not.
Example; KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Knoxville-based Heartland Transportation Inc. to reinstate a former employee and pay the individual $62,090 in compensatory and punitive damages plus more than two years of back wages, interest, benefits and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Example; On May 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it ordered Mark Alvis, Inc., a Tennessee-based commercial motor carrier, to reinstate a former employee and pay him $180,000 in back pay, interest, and damages. OSHA found that the company violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by terminating the employee for refusing to drive while he was fatigued and ill, and for refusing to exceed the hours-of-service limitations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
The announcement that OSHA has recently fined a Tennessee dispatcher and his carrier more than $400,000 for the dispatchers actions should be a wakeup call for every carrier in America. Firing drivers who refuse to drive equipment that is not CSA fit can now only lead to OSHA showing up at your door. Plaintiff’s Attorneys have finally discovered how to apply the Whistleblower law to dismissal cases caused by CSA deficient vehicles after a driver has been dismissed for refusing to operate it. For attorneys and OSHA that is like a shark smelling blood in the water.
Believe it or not some carriers have brainwashed themselves into believing that their dispatchers are not forcing drivers to do anything wrong and most may not be but it only takes one to draw the attention of OSHA. Most owners or Safety Managers are of the opinion that it is easy to cover a dispatcher’s tracks after a driver is fired for not letting the dispatcher control the driving actions. But all dispatchers push a little in driver’s minds and if a driver is fired after a CSA event then OSHA and attorneys have learned to do the math.
Some Owners say, “I can fire a driver for anything I want and record the reason as anything I want! It will be their word against ours! After all the whole industry has got away with it for years so why is today any different? It’s good that you asked!
Because of CSA a dispatcher can now be held both criminally and civilly responsible for their actions and to stay out of jail dispatchers are rolling over on carriers. But it is more than just that! If a vehicle was just cited for an equipment failure and the driver comes up fired and then files a complaint you will find it very difficult to cover these tracks! It simply adds up. The drivers score got dinged and the driver was fired or starved out of a job.
The Dot and the FMCSA has investigated driver claims for years about bad dispatchers but rarely found in favor of a driver in such cases. But OSHA is sending in the investigators now and they leave no stone unturned. The companies fined here had covered their tracks and felt confidant OSHA could not make a case. But now, since OSHA is using CSA records against carriers, we may see the biggest financial threat that carriers and dispatchers have ever faced.
The Whistleblower law is something carriers have not had to deal with when it came to dispatcher and driver relationships. Only correct training and serious actions against dispatchers can correct this problem for carriers. That may be hard to do in an industry where most believe that pushing drivers is the only way to make any money! What will you do?
The OSHA Protection from Discrimination Whistleblowers Act
Protection from discrimination means that an employer cannot retaliate by taking "adverse action" against workers, such as:
• Firing or laying off – applies to CSA
• Blacklisting – applies to DAC
• Demoting – applies to
• Denying overtime or promotion – applies to CSA
• Disciplining – applies to CSA
• Denial of benefits - applies to CSA
• Failure to hire or rehire - applies to CSA
• Intimidation - applies to CSA
• Making threats - applies to CSA
• Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion - applies to CSA
• Reducing pay or hours - applies to CSA
• CSA related issues under firing or laying off - applies to CSA