NH Supreme Court rules in favor of trucker

| 4/22/2002

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a truckdriver that lost his job after he objected to working on his only day off. The high court overturned an earlier decision by the state Labor Department, calling it "unjust and unreasonable."

Barry Leonard Sr., previously employed by Fred Fuller Oil Co., was ordered to work on a January 1996 Sunday after working the entire week because of a suspension of hours-of-service rules for fuel drivers during the unusually harsh winter, according to a court document. For personal reasons, he asked for the day off.

Leonard was told to speak directly with owner Fred Fuller if he wanted the day for rest. Fuller told Leonard if he refused to work, he would be fired, the court said. Leonard dropped off the truck later and did not return to work.

Leonard later filed a complaint under the state's Whistleblower's Protection Act, claiming he was fired for reporting a violation of state labor law to his boss. The state "day of rest" law forbids businesses from requiring employees to work on Sundays unless they have another scheduled day off during the week.

The Labor Board ruled Leonard failed to report the violation because he did not mention the law in his conversation with Fuller. It also determined Leonard had not pursued all internal remedies to get his job back.

But the court said Leonard was not required to cite the law because Fuller should have known that Leonard was referring to his rights under the statute. It also ruled that Leonard had pursued the company's recommended remedy by calling Fuller in the first place and ordered the agency to decide on an appropriate remedy.