OSHA awards driver $45,000 after improper firing

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered a New York trucking company pay a driver $45,000 after he was fired for reporting mechanical safety problems.

In 2011, the trucker began working for Brindi Trailer Sales and Services Inc. of Merridale, in rural Upstate New York, a for-hire interstate carrier with one tractor-trailer. Soon after, he requested owner Robert Urbina Brindi repair the truck, including fixing ineffective brakes, steering problems, broken turn signals, leaks and a cracked windshield.

In February 2012, after Brindi refused to correct the issues, the driver contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The trucker was fired after PDOT put the truck out of service for 16 violations.

OSHA determined he had violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act Jan. 21. It ordered him to compensate the trucker $32,642 in lost wages, $10,000 in punitive damages and $3,060 in attorney’s fees and expunge his employment record.

Brindi did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. He has 30 days to object and request a hearing before a Department of Labor administrative law judge.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration public records indicate the company has been inspected once, had no OOS service violations, but its vehicle miles traveled data was outdated.

Robert Kulick, OSHA’s New York regional administrator, said the agency’s investigation concluded the driver had been fired for doing the right thing. “Commercial truck drivers have a legal right to report safety issues to their employer without fear of termination or retaliation,” Kulick said.

The agency does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.