Carrier ordered to pay four truckers $1.07M fired for participating in FMCSA audit

The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered a North Carolina carrier to pay four former employees more than $1.07 million after it says the truckers were fired in violation of federal whistle blower protection laws.

The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the Nov. 13 complaint against Gaines Motor Lines Inc. and individuals Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins. Tompkins’ job title was not immediate available, while the company’s website lists Tim Gaines and company founder Forest Gaines as running 148-truck fleet.

OSHA officials allege the four truck drivers were terminated for participating in a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration inspection audit at company headquarters in Hickory. Agency representatives interviewed the drivers Feb. 28 to March 1. After the FMCSA issued citations against the carrier March 8, the truckers were fired or laid off and lost their benefits.

The administration alleges that they were terminated in violation of the whistleblower protection provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. OSHA has ordered preliminary reinstatement for three of the four employees; the fourth employee died early this year. The company also is to pay $215,657 in back wages, interest, compensatory damages of and $675,000 punitive damages.

Gaines can appeal the order to the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, but an appeal would not suspend the preliminary reinstatement order.