OSHA orders fleet owner to rehire employee fired after replacing bad tire

Federal workplace safety regulators have ordered a Gresham, Ore. truck driver to rehire an employee who refused to drive a truck with bad tires.

An investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed the woman was fired eight days after she replaced a tire before going out on the road in 2011. The driver later filed a whistleblower complaint, prompting Monday's order.

OSHA ruled her firing violated a federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee who refuses to operate an unsafe vehicle.

Terry Unrein, her employer, also must pay the woman an estimated $115,200 in back wages, accruing at $600 weekly until he makes a job offer, according to a Labor Department spokesman. He faces $2,600 in attorney fees, as well.

Unrein contended the woman was fired because she was involved in three accidents in 90 days, not because of the faulty tire.

He said his truck fleet is regularly inspected to prevent such safety hazards. "We do not send trucks that are not safe out on the road."

He said he has already appealed the OSHA decision.

The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

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