(Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from NFI.)
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered a company to pay a trucker more than $276,000 and to reinstate his job after the driver turned whistleblower refused to violate hours-of-service regulations.
NFI Interactive Logistics assigned the driver to a load of bottled water from Northborough, Mass., to Jersey City on Aug. 15, 2012, according to a DOL press release. On that night, severe weather resulted in flooded roads, heavy traffic and vehicle accidents. Considering the conditions, the driver determined the trip would take longer than usual and could not complete the delivery within the confines of hours-of-service regulations.
Instead, the trucker delivered the load to a closer facility in Kearny, N.J., to the objection of NFI. Once delivered in Kearney, another driver picked up the load for delivery to Jersey City, which was approved by both NFI and the customer.
The trucker returned to Northborough without violating HOS regulations, and the load was delivered. The next day, NFI fired the man for insubordination, which prompted the driver to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. An investigation revealed the driver’s complaint was valid.
OSHA has ordered NFI to take the following actions:
- Immediately reinstate the driver, including all rights, seniority, pay raises and benefits he was entitled to before being fired;
- Pay driver $126,870 in back pay and interest from termination date to June 7, 2016, plus additional amounts up to date of offer of reinstatement;
- Pay driver $50,000 in compensatory damages;
- Pay driver $100,000 in punitive damages and pay attorney fees;
- Expunge any records of discharge;
- NFI cannot make any adverse statements regarding the termination or facts of the case;
- Cannot retaliate against the driver; and
- Must 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 the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
NFI has 30 days to appeal OSHA’s decision. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.
“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, in a press release. “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.”
NFI sent Land Line the following the statement:
"NFI takes very seriously its compliance with the hours of service regulations and all other applicable regulatory requirements and any alleged violations of such regulations and requirements. The safety of our drivers and the public is and always has been our number one priority. Although NFI does not typically comment on ongoing litigation, we want to make clear that NFI strongly objects to and challenges the preliminary findings of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that were contained in its Preliminary Order dated June 7, 2016. NFI will be filing a formal objection and will request a trial before an administrative law judge to, among other things, correct the facts on which the preliminary findings were made."
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