OSHA finds trucking company fired driver for refusing to violate HOS regulations
Posted June 13, 2016
A New Jersey-based transportation company is being ordered by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to reinstate and pay a driver more than $276,000 in damages after being fired for refusing to violate hours-of-service regulations.
According to OSHA, the company violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), an investigation by the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found. The agency is ordering the company to reinstate the driver, pay him more than $276,000 in back wages and damages, and take other corrective action.
The company assigned the driver to deliver a truckload of bottled water from Northborough, Massachusetts, to Jersey City, New Jersey, on August 15, 2012. Due to a severe thunderstorm, flooded roads, heavy traffic, and motor vehicle accidents, the trip took significantly longer than normal. He believed that he lacked sufficient time to complete the delivery and return home without violating the hours-of-service restrictions contained in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.
To address the situation, he delivered the load to a closer customer facility in nearby Kearny, New Jersey. The company objected to the driver delivering the load to Kearny. Shortly after the delivery arrived in Kearny, arrangements were made to have a different company driver drive the load to Jersey City. Both the company and the customer approved the new arrangement. The load was delivered and the driver was able to return to Northborough without violating the hours-of-service restrictions or posing a risk.
The DOL says the company fired him the next day for insubordination. The driver subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. The agency investigated and found merit to the driver’s complaint.
As a result of its findings, OSHA is ordering the company to take the following corrective actions:
- Immediately reinstate the driver to his former position, with all rights, seniority, pay raises, and benefits to which he was entitled absent the discharge.
- Pay the driver $126,870 in back pay and interest covering the period from August 17, 2012, to June 7, 2016, plus additional amounts accruing up to the day the company makes the driver a bona fide offer of reinstatement.
- Pay him $50,000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering, including emotional distress, depression, mental pain, humiliation, and embarrassment.
- Pay him $100,000 in punitive damages and also pay his reasonable attorney fees.
- Expunge from all of its files any reference to the discharge, or the driver’s exercise of his rights under STAA.
- Make no adverse statements about the driver’s termination and/or any of the facts at issue in this case in response to any inquiry regarding his employment with the company
- Not retaliate against the driver in any manner for his instituting or causing to be instituted any proceeding under or related to STAA.
- Immediately post in a conspicuous location in its workplace a signed and dated notice to employees informing them of the order and their rights under STAA.
The driver and the company each have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
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