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Tennessee Mail Carrier Settles STAA Whistleblower Lawsuit after Terminating Driver for Complaining About Defective Vehicles

Heartland Transportation Inc., a U.S. Postal Service contract mail carrier based in Knoxville, Tennessee, has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleging that the company violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) when it terminated an employee for complaining about defective vehicles.

In August 2009, the driver was assigned a trailer with a nonworking light to deliver a truckload of mail to customers in Pontiac, Michigan. When he realized the trailer had a nonworking light, the driver complained and the light was fixed before he made his delivery.  However, the driver encountered and reported multiple other mechanical failures with the company’s vehicles.  He informed Heartland that he would not drive trucks with mechanical failures. When the driver returned to the company’s facility after making his delivery in Michigan, he found that the company had removed his name from the driving schedule. When he inquired about this, Heartland informed the driver that it had terminated his employment. The driver then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA.

Following OSHA’s investigation, Heartland agreed to pay the former employee $31,200 in compensatory damages.  OSHA also ordered the carrier to remove all records regarding the involuntary discharge from the former employee’s personnel records, and to provide a neutral reference to any prospective employers. Heartland has also agreed to post a notice informing employees of their rights under STAA.

Cindy A. Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta, stated:

“OSHA will continue to ensure that the whistleblower protection provisions of the STAA are property and thoroughly enforced, while always keeping open the opportunity for settlement negotiations.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

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