Truck Driver Awarded $276K For Wrongful Termination After Refusing To Violate HOS Rulesby Jana Ritter - Published: 6/09/2016
Over the last few years, news stories have revealed the “hidden” reality of many companies pushing truck drivers to violate Federal hours of service regulations in order to complete delivery jobs in less time. While everyone has their own preferences about the hours they drive, one truck driver who absolutely refused to violate HOS regulations was fired from his job. Now the company has been ordered to him $276,000, thanks to an investigation by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
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The incident occurred in August of 2012, when NFI Interactive Logistics assigned the driver to deliver a truckload of Poland Spring bottled water from Northborough, Mass. to Jersey City. That particular day the area had been hit with a severe thunderstorm, which caused flooded roads, heavy traffic and several accidents adding to the long delay. As a result, the driver’s trip ended up taking much longer than normal and he realized he wouldn’t have enough time to complete the delivery and return home without violating his hours of service.
Resolving the problem on his own, the truck driver delivered the load to a closer customer facility located in nearby Kearny, N.J. The company didn’t agree with his decision and shortly after he delivered the load to Kearny, NFI arranged for a different company driver to continue driving the load to Jersey City. Both the company and the customer approved the new arrangement, the load was delivered and the original driver safely returned to Northborough without violating the hours of service restrictions. Nevertheless, NFI fired him the next day for “insubordination.” The driver responded by filing a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. OSHA investigated the matter and found that NFI violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Now they are ordering NFI to reinstate the driver to his former position and also pay him more than $276,000 in back wages and damages.
“This driver found a way to do his job and ensure motor carrier safety. Rather than receiving credit for doing the right thing, he received a pink slip,” said Kim Stille of OSHA. “The law is clear: Drivers have the right to raise legitimate safety concerns to their employer – including refusing to violate safety regulations – without fear of termination or other retaliation. NFI must reverse its actions and compensate this driver for the financial and other losses he has suffered as a result of his illegal termination.”
Both the truck driver and NFI each have 30 days to file objections and request a hearing before the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.