Trucking company ordered to pay whistleblowers, reinstate them

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | Monday, November 18, 2013

A North Carolina-based trucking company has been ordered to pay four former drivers more than $1 million and reinstate them after federal investigators found the company violated whistleblower protection provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

Gaines Motor Lines Inc. of Hickory, N.C., as well as company officials Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins, have been ordered to compensate the four drivers, including one driver who died in early 2013. They were allegedly fired for participating in an inspection audit conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The four drivers were interviewed by FMCSA inspectors as part of the onsite audit from Feb. 28 through March 1, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Michael D’Aquino with the Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Labor told Land Line on Monday, Nov. 18, that Gaines Motor Lines later received citations from FMCSA for hours-of-service violations.

Following the on-site audit, the drivers allegedly “suffered adverse retaliation by company officials, including termination, layoffs and removal of employee benefits,” the release states.

The OSHA order includes reinstatement of the three remaining drivers, back wages, interest and compensatory damages of $214,657 and punitive damages of $675,000.

Gaines Motor Lines, which has 61 power units and 61 drivers, is a family-owned company. According to its website, the company has been in operation since 1947 and runs mainly throughout the Southeast and East Coast.

Under the DOL’s whistleblower provisions, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.

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