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OSHA orders company to pay worker for blacklisting and sabotage

Workers in California may have heard about a New Jersey man who was blacklisted by a trucking company after he sought treatment for a workplace injury. Now the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered New Prime Inc. to pay the former employee $100,994.24 in back wages, compensation and punitive damages.

In October 2008, the truck driver told his supervisors that his back was injured on the job and that he was getting medical help. The following month, he presented proof from his physician that the injury was so serious that the prescriptions that he was taking meant that he could not operate a commercial vehicle safely.

In July 2009, the physician told the driver that he could return to full duty, but the driver chose not to return to New Prime Inc. and sought work elsewhere. When the driver was rejected by a company, he found out that his former employer had submitted misleading and harmful information about his job reputation. The driver filed a complaint with OSHA that claimed that New Prime Inc. violated the anti-retaliatory provisions in the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

After reviewing the case, OSHA ordered the company to pay the driver $41,373.34 in back wages, including interest. The company is also being forced to pay $40,000 in compensation for pain and suffering, as well as emotional distress, loss of property and loss of home. The driver will also receive $20,000 in punitive damages due to the company's disregard of workers' rights. Additionally, the company has to remove any records that mention the driver's unlawful termination.

The law prohibits employers from blacklisting and sabotaging workers who seek medical attention for workplace injuries. Workers' compensation is in place so that employees who are injured on the job may get financial help for the medical bills, retraining and replacement income associated with their injuries.

Source: OSHA, "US Labor Department's OSHA orders Missouri trucking company to pay more than $100,000 to blacklisted driver from New Jersey Company found to have violated anti-retaliation protection provided whistleblowers", Leni Fortson & Joanna Hawkins, January 06, 2014

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