Blue Bird Bus Corp., a bus manufacturing company based in Fort-Valley, Georgia, has recently settled a case with the U.S. Department of Labor to pay more then $176,000 in back wages and interest to a former maintenance employee who was illegally terminated in 2004. Blue Bird has also agreed to pay the Labor Department’s costs associated with the case and any repayment of unemployment benefits that the employee received from the years of 2004 and 2009 if the state chooses to claim them.
The employee, named Ricky Dye in court documents, was laid off after reporting safety concerns regarding the improper use of a bucket lift. He was asked to put up Christmas wreaths using a bucket lift truck. Dye asked for training on the proper use of the equipment and management refused, which led to a disagreement between the two parties. This disagreement was then immediately followed by Dye’s illegal termination.
After Dye was fired, OSHA conducted its own whistleblower investigation in which it was concluded that he was illegally terminated for refusing to work under unsafe conditions. When he was not reinstated following the investigation, the Office of the Solicitor for the Labor Department filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia in 2006. The district court ruled in favor of the department and Dye was reinstated as part of the settlement. Blue Bird appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 2009, which was once again ruled in favor of the department. The most recent settlement from this past week marks the end of a 7-year roller coaster ride for Ricky Dye and his rights as a whistleblower.
*Parth Baxi (a NWC intern) contributed to this posting