OSHA has ordered Gaines Motor Lines, a Hickory-based freight hauling company, to reinstate three workers and pay $1,070,123 in back pay wages, interest, compensatory and punitive damages to four former employees who warned about safety problems.
OSHA ruled that the company and its owners violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act’s whistle-blower provisions when it fired the four in 2012.
The company fired the four workers following a Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration audit. FMCSA officials interviewed the four from Feb. 28 to March 1, 2012. Then it issued citations to the company.
On March 8, the men lost their jobs and had their benefits cut off.
OSHA ruled that the company and its owners must pay $215,657 in back wages, interest, and compensatory damages and $675,000 in punitive damages.
Note: OSHA made a point of going after the owners of Gaines Motor Lines—a chilling reminder that many federal whistle-blower laws call for personal liability.