The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered a New Jersey trucking company to reinstate a driver it fired and pay him more than $276,000 in back wages and damages and take other corrective actions.
According to a statement from OSHA, a truck driver for Cherry Hill-based NFI Interactive Logistics Inc. “concerned he couldn’t complete his delivery from Massachusetts to New Jersey and back without violating federal safety regulations and putting himself and others at risk thought he’d devised a solution to deliver his cargo on-time and comply with the regulations. Instead of thanking him, his employer fired him.”
OSHA said NFI violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the Surface Transportation Act with the driver’s dismissal.
A statement from OSHA said:
“NFI assigned the driver to deliver a truckload of Poland Spring bottled water from Northborough, Massachusetts to Jersey City, New Jersey, on Aug. 15, 2012. Due to a severe thunderstorm, flooded roads, heavy traffic and motor vehicle accidents, the trip took significantly longer than normal. He believed that he lacked sufficient time to complete the delivery and return home without violating the hours of service restrictions contained in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.
“To address the situation, he delivered the load to a closer customer facility in nearby Kearny, New Jersey. NFI objected to the driver delivering the load to Kearny. Shortly after the delivery arrived in Kearny, arrangements were made to have a different NFI driver drive the load to Jersey City. Both NFI and the customer approved the new arrangement. The load was delivered and the driver was able to return to Northborough without violating the hours of service restrictions or posing a risk. NFI fired him the next day for insubordination. The driver subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. The agency investigated and found merit to the driver’s complaint.”
“This driver found a way to do his job and ensure motor carrier safety. Rather than receiving credit for doing the right thing, he received a pink slip,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “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.”
OSHA has ordered NFI to:
- Immediately reinstate the driver to his former position, with all rights, seniority, pay raises and benefits to which he was entitled absent the discharge.
- Pay the driver $126,870 in back pay and interest covering the period from August 17, 2012 to June 7, 2016, plus additional amounts accruing up to the day the company makes the driver a bona fide offer of reinstatement.
- Pay him $50,000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering, including emotional distress, depression, mental pain, humiliation and embarrassment.
- Pay him $100,000 in punitive damages and also pay his reasonable attorney fees.
- Expunge from all of its files any reference to the discharge, or the driver’s exercise of his rights under STAA.
- Make no adverse statements about the driver’s termination and/or any of the facts at issue in this case in response to any inquiry regarding his employment with NFI.
- Not retaliate against the driver in any manner for his instituting or causing to be instituted any proceeding under or related to STAA.
- Immediately post in a conspicuous location in its workplace a signed and dated notice to employees informing them of the order and their rights under STAA.
The driver and NFI each have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.