A truck driver named Curtis Dick won a safety whistleblower suit against his former employer, Tango Transport, with widespread implications.
The Administrative Review Board of the Department of Labor decided in Dick’s favor in spite of the fact that his employer took corrective actions eliminating the safety issues he had raised.
While working for Tango, Dick filed numerous complaints about mechanical issues arising with his assigned trucks, as well as his manager’s frequent interruptions of his legally required breaks.
After suffering a work-related injury, Dick took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act While on leave, Tango terminated him, prompting Dick to file his complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Tango later reinstated Dick, after which he again complained about retaliation, this time from his new manager, that resulted in fewer and worse work assignments. Dick filed retaliation complaints and continued to receive he regarded as unfavorable assignments, which he often refused to complete.
After being put on probation and threatened with termination, Dick resigned. OSHA initially rejected his complaint, a decision that was upheld when it was appealed to an administrative law judge.
The DOL Administrative Review Board overturned all those decisions, although Tango made the requested repairs to Dick’s truck, and he failed to cite specific rules violations in his complaints.
The complaint only needs be “related to” safety regulations and can include mistaken beliefs about what is a violation of regulations, the board held.
The board also declared that a whistleblower’s legally protected activity does not lose protection simply because an employer takes corrective action.
The DOL panel said that by threatening him with termination, Tango led Dick to reasonably believe that his discharge was imminent, making his resignation attributable to Tango’s actions.