Two truck drivers who worked for roofing and building products company Gulfeagle Supply and were fired after blowing the whistle on safety hazards are to be reinstated, according to a March 1 news release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The decision follows an OSHA investigation of the Oklahoma City-based company. Along with reinstating the two workers, Gulfeagle Supply must “pay more than $23,000 in back wages to each employee and $70,000 in punitive damages,” the news release states.
According to the news release, the two drivers went to their manager with concerns about the tires on a company truck and “refused to operate vehicles with unsafe tires.” The drivers were fired in August of 2020.
OSHA conducted an investigation into the drivers’ firings and found that Gulfeagle Supply acted in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). STAA protects whistleblowers in the transportation industry, providing anti-retaliation provisions to employees who want to report safety issues or violations. Notably, the STAA includes a de novo review section, which allows the whistleblower to “bring an original action at law or equity for de novo review in the appropriate district court” if the Secretary of Labor “has not issued a final decision within 210 days after the filing of the complaint and if the delay if not due to the bad faith of the employee.”
STAA is one of over 20 whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Other statutes include the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.
As part of OSHA’s decision, Gulfeagle Supply “must train managers and employees on workers’ rights under the STAA,” the news release states. The company has the ability to appeal OSHA’s order to the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
“Federal law helps make our roads safer by empowering truck drivers to refuse to drive trucks not properly maintained,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric Harbin in Dallas. “OSHA is committed to protecting workers who do what’s right when it comes to their safety and that of others.”