In a whistleblower matter, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently ordered reinstatement of a driver of explosives truck after the driver was fired for stating his objection to a co-worker smoking in the vehicle. Apparently, the co-worker's ashtray in the vehicle was full of cigarette butts, and this understandably caused the truck driver concern.
The truck driver's commonsense objections were backed by federal legislation that ban smoking in these vehicles. Obviously, the policy behind such statutes is to prevent workplace injuries - as well as prevent injuries for others.
It does seem remarkable that a company would have more concerns about a worker objecting to someone smoking in a truck loaded with explosives than about the worker that actually was smoking in a truck loaded with explosives. If what the OSHA investigation concerning this matter is true, safety was not a high priority with the company.
Whistleblower lawsuits come about when employees are fired for objecting or reporting on unsafe working conditions. And though workers are protected by a number of federal statutes from retribution by employers, such whistleblower lawsuits remain common.
For example, another whistleblower lawsuit was recently brought against Norfolk Southern Railroad by Illinois injured employees for whistleblower allegations. OSHA alleged that the workers were retaliated against for reporting workplace injuries, and the railroad was ultimately ordered to pay these workers $932,070.
Because workers trying to do the right thing have so few options when an employer chooses to ignore their safety concerns, workers may wish to consult with an attorney when safety issues are not addressed. Attorneys experienced in helping out injured workers understand federal and state regulations concerning working conditions, and these attorneys can also negotiate for the benefit of the worker in order to make certain the worker is not unfairly punished.
Source: Fair Warning, "Explosives Truck Driver Who Was Fired for Refusing to Ride With a Smoker Wins Whistleblower Case," August 29, 2012