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Judge orders carrier to reinstate driver, pay $90,000 in damages and back pay

| April 05, 2013

After what he deemed as wrongful termination and a retaliatory firing, a Department of Labor judge has ordered that the Boise, Idaho-based Cargo Express award more than $90,000 in damages and back pay to driver T.J. Graff, who refused to drive his carrier-assigned truck after he found an oil and air leak, according to documents released by the court this week.

Judge Lee J. Romero also ordered that Cargo Express reinstate Graff. The carrier had fired Graff for not meeting a monthly miles standard. Romero said that no other drivers had been fired for low mileage during the time period and ruled that Cargo Express must pay Graff $65,767 in back pay and $25,000 in punitive damages.

The court documents say that Graff’s suit was brought under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, which prohibits employers from firing or discriminating against employees who have complained about violations of safety regulations or refuse to drive because of said violations.

Graff was originally fired on June 7, 2010 and the case has gone through a variety of hearings, investigations and proceedings since.

Click here to see the order documents released by the Department of Labor.

  • Mike Jones

    Cargo Express is NOT interested in CSA or D.O.T They want to operate the OLD days…CROOKS!! Stay AWAY from companies like This….they will have the DRIVER in trouble with the COPS..then fire the driver for Low Miles!!

  • Mike Jones

    This treatment by Cargo Express is SO typical…they want to FORCE the driver to break the LAW..and Take the Risks too. They are the WORST companies to work for.

  • ironage

    Cargo Express has had a pretty bad reputation for quite a few years.

  • David S. McQueen

    Most companies do not commit such flagrant violations. They use much more subtle coercion and intimidation. However, some drivers who have mediocre records have to put up with being forced to violate the regulations because they can’t hire on with “good” companies. If they push the issue, they are fired under pretext, and become poison to other companies. A good driving record is the best weapon a driver has.

  • Jeff Pearson

    You can always stop at a scale and ask for their help.. Explain that the trucking company doesn’t want to fix it. They will and also get a ticket.. Problem resolved.. And you don’t get fired, just because you were stopped and inspected.. They think..

  • martymarsh

    Don’t take this personal, but that is a big joke.

  • David S. McQueen

    In what way? What did I write that you construe as a “joke”?

  • EF

    First of all the outcome in this case is not typical other cases have gone the other way. To anyone interested google the famous “Safeshred Inc. v. Martinez”
    This is a classic “run the load illegal or clean the truck out” case.
    Second I think it safe to say these types of demands are not just restricted to equipment. Drivers have declared they were tired and in need of rest only to hear the, “customer must be serviced,” or “we need to service the load.” Whenever HOS were still available many drivers have come under heavy coercive pressure to press on! In fact here are some recent tactics by large carrier:
    a.)”if you have the hours then you have to work, it’s the law.”
    b.)”you got 11 and 14 and you’re gonna work.”
    c.)Some drivers are even hearing dispatchers say: “If you have the hours and you don’t work then you’re not compliant.”
    What?? I’m not compliant because I’m not always willing and able to exhaust every last available hr?? WOW!!
    This is why in the list of problems i outlined with EOBRs, i indicated that motor carriers are treating the HOS rules not merely as limits to work but rather as mandates to work.
    If a final EOBR rule ultimately gets codified in law, drivers will need some kind of provision in the rule book to be able to safely decline work when necessary. Something, i think, akin to a whistle-blower rule. Otherwise a driver will have no authoritative way to decline work or say NO without being retaliated against.
    There are countless examples of wrongful terminations. But “at will” employment rules typically protect employers from lawsuits.
    It goes without saying about the irrationality of mandatory work with “one size fits all” rules. For one thing it is a truism that not all people have equal physical ability or capacity. As such not everyone can equally perform work safely up to the maximum limit of the HOS.
    In his book, “EVERY EMPLOYEE’S GUIDE TO THE LAW,” Lewin G. Joel III over 20 ways or reason a employer can use to FIRE you. Here they are:
    1)For insubordination
    2)For violating company rules
    3)For lying or making misrepresentations on your job app
    4)For excessive absence or lateness
    5)For low productivity
    6)For incompetence
    7)For negligence
    8)For sleeping on the job
    9)For violating safety rules
    10)For harassing coworkers
    11)For stealing or misappropriating company property
    12)For damaging company property
    13)For fighting
    14)For gambling
    15)For drinking or possesion of alcohol on the job
    16)For conviction of a crime
    17)Because your job is obsolete
    18)Because of a downturn in business and finally
    19)Because you are physically or mentally unable to perform the essential duties of the job and there is no reasonable accomodation that would make it possible for you to do so.
    WOW Companies and Corporations ARE WELL PROTECTED I’D SAY!!!!!
    So now my Million Dollar Question is:

  • EF

    David S. McQueen if I’m guessing correctly I’d say martymarsh took issue with your first sentence: “Most companies do not commit such flagrant violations.” And If I’m right, I’d say i take issue with that too. It’s more widespread than you think. Please consider this.
    The rest of what you indicated is ok… I’m just saying….

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