A trucker operator employed by a carrier recently won almost $200,000 in a wrongful termination lawsuit. Yet the alleged cause of his firing was not his poor performance, but his compliance with the federal hours-of-service regulation. The trucker claims that he refused to take a load that would have put him over the hourly quota for that period and that his employer fired him for that reason eight days later.
A federal law, called the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, makes it illegal for trucking companies to retaliate against employees who refuse to drive for certain lawful reasons, such as feeling too sick to operate a truck, adverse weather or when applicable safety regulations would be violated.
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In the lawsuit, the driver’s employer, who has 75 trucks in its fleet, attempted to justify the termination on other grounds: They claimed the driver had refused other loads without reason, been late to a meeting with his supervisor, and was often unreachable via cell phone when his dispatcher needed to contact him. After reviewing the driver’s employment and phone records, the court found no evidence to support the employer’s claims. Accordingly, it ruled for the driver.
The story is an important reminder that a truck accident may implicate liability not only against a truck driver but also his or her commercial carrier/employer. Both may share responsibility for compliance with applicable safety regulations, and a crash victim will need an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate the records not only of the truck driver but also the employer’s maintenance, training, and other relevant matters.
Source: Overdrive, “Trucker gets nearly $200k from carrier in refusal to drive firing,” James Jaillet, Aug. 4, 2016