Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) placed the Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program under the direct supervision of the agency’s head, Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels. The move strongly emphasizes the heightened priority OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor placed on employee whistleblower protections last year.
Among the whistleblower laws enforced by OSHA that are critical to motor carriers is the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, or STAA. The STAA protects drivers and other employees from adverse employment action taken in response to complaints related to commercial motor vehicle safety. Motor carrier liability under the STAA is significant and may include back pay, reinstatement, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. OSHA’s efforts to strengthen whistleblower protections, as indicated by yesterday’s announcement, signals a continuation of the increased government scrutiny motor carriers have faced in recent years.