A trucker has been awarded over a quarter of a million dollars after an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration completed an investigation into the firing of the driver because he correctly rerouted a load through a different terminal.
The unnamed driver was tasked with carrying a load of Poland Spring bottled water for the New Jersey-based NFI Interactive Logistics Inc. On his drive up to Massachusetts, he encountered severe weather which put him behind schedule. Instead of trying to push through to his destination and risking running over his allowable hours of service, the driver instead called his carrier and asked if the load could be dropped at a different terminal nearby.
Both the carrier and the client agreed that the change was okay, but the next day, the driver was fired for insubordination even though arrangements had been made to get the load the rest of the way to its destination.
After he was fired, he filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, claiming that his carrier had fired him for refusing to haul a load which would put himself and others on the road at risk due to being over his legal driving hours.
OSHA sided with the driver and ordered NFI to pay him $126,870 in back wages and interest, $50,000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering, and $100,000 in punitive damages, as well as paying for the driver’s attorney fees.
“This driver found a way to do his job and ensure motor carrier safety,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s Boston-based New England regional administrator in a press release. “Rather than receiving credit for doing the right thing, he received a pink slip. 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.”