The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered Kids Bus Service, Bronx, N.Y., to rehire a driver reportedly fired for refusing to operate a school bus under unsafe circumstances. OSHA is ordering the bus service pay him nearly $60,000 in back wages, interest and damages.
On Feb. 3, 2004, Jack Marziano was operating a school bus carrying teenagers when a disturbance broke out. Marziano was reportedly pelted several times on the back of the neck with packed ice and snow. He blacked out momentarily, became dizzy and felt he could not operate the bus safely. He reportedly refused to continue operating the bus, for which he was later fired.
Marziano filed a complaint with OSHA Feb. 19, 2004. The agency’s investigation reportedly found merit in Marziano’s allegation that he had been discharged in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). OSHA determined that a reasonable bus driver would not have continued driving with students throwing packed snow and ice, after a blackout and while feeling dizzy and disoriented, because these conditions could have caused an accident.
As a result, OSHA has ordered Kid’s Bus Service to immediately reinstate Marziano to his former position; pay him $33,227.80 in lost wages, $1,288.82 in interest and $25,000 in compensatory damages; expunge any adverse references to the discharge in Marziano’s personnel record; and refrain from negative comments about the discharge in response to any future requests for employment references.
“The safety of both workers and passengers must be a paramount concern in operating buses and other commercial vehicles,” said Patricia Clark, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “We will not hesitate to take the necessary legal steps to protect employees’ rights to safe working conditions.”
The STAA authorizes the Labor Department to investigate complaints by bus drivers and others involved in operating commercial motor vehicles who believe they have been discriminated against for their involvement in protected safety activities. If an OSHA investigation determines that an employee’s complaint has merit, OSHA can order remedies such as reinstatement and back pay. Both the company and Marziano have 30 days to file objections and request a hearing on the matter with the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
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