OSHA awards $276,000 to trucker fired for refusing to violate HOS

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered a company to pay a trucker more than $276,000 and to reinstate his job after the driver turned whistleblower refused a load because of hours-of-service regulations.

NFI Interactive Logistics assigned the driver to a load of bottled water from Northborough, Mass., to Jersey City on Aug. 15, 2012, according to a DOL press release. However, the man refused the load due to severe weather that resulted in flooded roads, heavy traffic and vehicle accidents. Considering the conditions, the driver determined the trip would take longer than usual and could not complete the delivery within the confines of hours-of-service regulations.

Instead, the trucker delivered the load to a closer facility in Kearny, N.J., to the objection of NFI. Once delivered in Kearney, another driver picked up the load for delivery to Jersey City, which was approved by both NFI and the customer.

The trucker returned to Northborough without violating HOS regulations, and the load was delivered. The next day, NFI fired the man for insubordination, which prompted the driver to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. An investigation revealed the driver’s complaint was valid.

OSHA has ordered NFI to take the following actions:

Immediately reinstate the driver, including all rights, seniority, pay raises and benefits he was entitled to before being fired;
Pay driver $126,870 in back pay and interest from termination date to June 7, 2016, plus additional amounts up to date of offer of reinstatement;
Pay driver $50,000 in compensatory damages;
Pay driver $100,000 in punitive damages and pay attorney fees;
Expunge any records of discharge;
NFI cannot make any adverse statements regarding the termination or facts of the case;
Cannot retaliate against the driver; and
Must 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 the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

NFI has 30 days to appeal OSHA’s decision. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.

“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, OSHA’s New England regional administrator, in a press release. “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.”