Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other


Whistleblower Protection

Federal judge upholds Department of Labor order for crane company to pay truck driver terminated for refusing to violate federal safety rules

Crane Masters Inc. violated whistleblower protections of driver

HOUSTON – A federal Administrative Law Judge has upheld the Department of Labor’s finding that a Houston crane and rigging services provider violated federal law by firing a company truck driver on June 5, 2020, for refusing to exceed safe driving limits set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

An investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the driver employed by Crane Masters Inc. told their employer that, after working 19 hours on June 4, 2020, it would be unsafe for them to operate a commercial vehicle as they had not gotten the legally required amount of time off before returning to work. The Houston company responded by terminating the driver.

“Congress enacted the world’s first whistleblower protections in 1778 to ensure that people who come forward to report illegal behaviors or actions don’t suffer for doing what’s right,” OSHA Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “In this case, Crane Masters Inc. was held accountable for retaliating against an employee who acted responsibly by raising their concerns about endangering themselves and others by operating a commercial vehicle without sufficient rest.”

OSHA found the company fired the employee illegally for exercising their protected rights under the federal Whistleblower Protection Program, and the department’s Regional Solicitor in Dallas presented its case during a formal hearing in Houston on Oct. 14, 2022.

On May 13, 2024, the judge issued a decision upholding OSHA’s findings and ordered Crane Masters to pay the former truck driver $14,945 in back pay, interest and compensatory damages. The company must also expunge the former employee’s record and post a notice to employees.

“Once again, the Department of Labor has vigorously enforced the rights of employees who report safety or regulatory violations,” said Regional Solicitor John Rainwater. “Whistleblower rights are crucial to the safety of employees and the public at-large. A federal judge upheld the department’s contention that Crane Masters wrongly retaliated against a hard-working employee for doing what’s right.”

Operating for about 20 years, Crane Masters Inc. provides hydraulic truck cranes and rigging services for the construction, oil and gas, freight transportation and chemical manufacturing industries in the greater Houston area.

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities, tax, antitrust, and anti-money laundering laws and for engaging in other related protected activities. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.

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Original article published by OSHA