Drivers, foreman awarded $953k after refusal-to-drive firings

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Two drivers and a foreman for the Pontiac, Mich.-based Asphalt Specialists have been awarded $953,916 in back wages and damages after the Department of Labor deemed they were wrongfully terminated for refusing to drive beyond federal hours of service limits.

Asphalt Specialists must pay $243,916 in back wages, $110,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages, according to the Department of Transportation. The carrier was also ordered to reinstate the drivers.

Firing drivers who refuse to operate a vehicle in violation of federal rules violates provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, which is enforced by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The foreman was fired in June 2012, and the two truck drivers were fired in April and July of 2013. The drivers had raised concerns to the carrier about the number of hours they were expected to drive. One driver also refused to sign an affidavit denying that he or she was asked to work in excess of federal hours limits.

The other driver had also raised concerns with the carrier about its vehicle maintenance practices.

The foreman “repeatedly raised concerns,” the DOT says, about the carriers’ assignment of jobs that would cause drivers to exceed their hours limits.

All three received $200,000 in punitive damages. The two drivers received about $50,000 in back wages and $30,000 each in compensatory damages.

The foreman was ordered to receive $147,457 in back wages and $50,000 in compensatory damages.

Any of the parties in the case can file an appeal with the DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced they’ll be collaborating on cases like this to better assist truck operators in potential whistleblower claims. 

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