Asphalt Specialists Inc. has been found in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for wrongfully terminating a foreman and two truck drivers. They had raised safety concerns after being directed to violate U.S. Department of Transportation mandated hours of service for commercial truck drivers. The company was ordered to reinstate the three employees to their former positions with all pay, benefits and rights. The company was ordered to pay a total of $953,916 in damages: $243,916 in back wages to the drivers, $110,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages.
The foreman was terminated from employment on June 30, 2012. The foreman repeatedly raised concerns about exceeding hours of service when job assignments repeatedly failed to allow for the 10-hour rest period mandated by the Department of Transportation. At least twice, the foreman and the crew were expected to work more than 27 hours straight. OSHA ordered the foreman to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $147,457, $50,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
The second truck driver was terminated from employment on April 26, 2013. The employee also raised concerns about the number of work hours required by the company and refused to sign an affidavit denying that the worker was required to work in excess of the number hours legally permitted. OSHA ordered this driver to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $44,379, less any applicable employment taxes; $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
The third driver was terminated from employment on July 8, 2013, after raising concerns about vehicle maintenance and about the number of hours they were expected to drive. OSHA ordered the driver to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $52,080, less any applicable employment taxes; $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act covers private-sector drivers and other employees of commercial motor carriers. Companies covered by the STAA may not discharge their employees or retaliate against them for refusing to operate a vehicle because doing so would either violate a federal commercial motor vehicle rule related to safety, health or security, or because the employee had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to themselves or the public because of a vehicle’s safety or security condition. “It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report work-related safety concerns or violations of federal transportation regulations, which require drivers to have a minimum 10-hour rest period between shifts,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.
If you are a driver and believe you have retaliated against or blacklisted, please contact trucker lawyer Robert Boulter for a free consultation at (415) 233-7100 or at [email protected].