When considering how to best protect Ohio drivers and prevent Ohio truck accidents, much of the focus is on creating stricter laws and consequences for those who would violate them. However, such laws can be difficult to enforce, and therefore may not be as effective as intended. Much of the responsibility falls on trucking companies and employers to obey the laws. This does not always happen, so OSHA sought to make it easier for employees to come forward with violations. Therefore, under OSHA’s whistleblower protection laws, a truck driver or other trucking employee who sees a safety or security violation may report them without fear of retaliation or other consequences from their employer.
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), which was passed in 2007, was recently amended to include new procedures, rights and remedies. STAA is applicable to all private sector truck drivers, including independent contractors, as well as mechanics, freight handlers, and other employees of commercial motor carriers. A commercial motor vehicle is defined as any self-propelled or towed vehicle used on the highway in commerce principally to transport cargo or passengers, and must weigh over 10,000 pounds, or be designed to transport 10 or more passengers, or transport hazardous materials.
Employees who qualify for STAA protection are not subject to employer retaliation of any kind for filing a complaint or participating in a proceeding related to a vehicle safety rule, for cooperating with federal investigations, for providing information to an investigating agency, or for refusing to operate a vehicle because of the potential for a truck accident due to a safety violation.
Prohibited retaliation includes demoting, denying benefits or overtime, intimidation or threats, reducing pay or hours, demoting or refusing promotion, failure to hire or rehire, blacklisting, or otherwise disciplining. Employees must file STAA complaints within 180 days of the prohibited behavior.
Source: Ohio Trucking Association, “OSHA Whistleblower Fact Sheet”