Federal court orders Chicago-area company to pay whistleblower $95K in back wages after US Department of Labor investigation
NORTHBROOK, IL – A federal court has approved the settlement of a U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration whistleblower investigation that determined a Northbrook waste management company violated federal law when it retaliated against a former truck driver who reported a workplace injury and raised concerns to the company that an unrepaired truck was unsafe to operate.
U.S. District Court Judge Manish S. Shah in the Northern District of Illinois entered a consent judgment and order on July 6, ordering Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest LLC to pay the driver $95,000 in lost wages – minus applicable payroll taxes – and provide future prospective employers a neutral employment recommendation. The company has denied any wrongdoing.
The court’s action follows an OSHA investigation finding that after the truck driver cited concerns about a vehicle’s safety hazards, a company manager assigned the vehicle to a different driver. The manager then assigned the concerned truck driver to a vehicle with which they were unfamiliar. While operating the vehicle, the driver injured a finger and needed light duty to recover. A company investigation faulted the driver for the injury. The company later fired the driver after management suspected them of reporting unsafe working conditions to the company’s hotline.
OSHA determined that the truck driver’s dismissal was in retaliation for their protected activities under the whistleblower protections of Occupational Safety and Health Act’s Section 11(c). OSHA filed a complaint in federal court seeking compensation for the driver for unlawful termination.
“We commend this worker for standing up for their rights after suffering an injury and reporting workplace safety hazards that had the potential to injure other workers,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “Federal whistleblower laws protect workers from retaliation for reporting injuries and unsafe working conditions.”
In addition to payment of lost wages and neutral future employment recommendations, the court ordered Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest to add a copy of the order to the employee’s personnel record and post a notice of whistleblower rights in a common area at its Northbrook facility.
In October 2020, Waste Management of Houston, Texas, acquired Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest LLC.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes. These statutes protect employees from retaliation for reporting violations of 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 and tax laws; as well as for engaging in other related protected activities. Learn more about whistleblower protections.
Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.