Carrier to pay $262k to drivers fired for participating in FMCSA investigation

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Gaines Motor Lines has agreed to pay $262,500 to four former drivers who the Department of Labor deemed to be fired in violation of federal whistleblower protection laws.

This amount is considerably less than the $1.07 million that OSHA originally ordered the carrier to pay, as Gaines appealed the ruling that was announced last November. OSHA spokesperson Michael D’Aquino said a mediator helped decide the new settlement, which does not include the punitive damages included in the original settlement. All back wages, however, were still awarded, D’Aquino says.

The new settlement also includes compensatory damage and some interest on the back pay.

The four drivers were fired by the Hickory, N.C.-based carrier after they participated in an inspection audit, which uncovered log violations, OSHA says.

The employees were interviewed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration between Feb. 28 and March 1, 2012, and the drivers were fired on March 8, following FMCSA’s issuance of citations over what it uncovered in the investigation.

The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the firings violated provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

OSHA’s settlement with the company also includes owners Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins.

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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