Defunct Carrier Ordered to Pay Coerced Trucker $155,000
Boston, MA – A defunct trucking company and its co-owner have been ordered to pay a trucker nearly $155,000 for retaliating against him for expressing concerns over “faulty vehicle maintenance.”
According to a release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it has determined that Universal Trucking Solutions LLC – a defunct commercial motor carrier based in Hartford, CT – and its co-owner, Juan Ramirez, violated the whistleblower protections of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).
OSHA investigators found that the company and Ramirez retaliated against the driver after he repeatedly voiced concerns to management about faulty vehicle maintenance – including missing or inoperative headlights and air pressure leaks.
Additionally, OSHA investigators say the company also directed the driver to violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours of service (HOS) regulations while driving.
Management and Ramirez later changed the driver’s work schedule, resulting in a reduction to the driver’s pay, OSHA said.
The driver resigned in February 2017 after concerns that U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) officials would confiscate his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL); that his livelihood and/or life could be lost because of defective trucks; and because his employer forced him to ignore HOS rules.
Following the investigation, OSHA ordered United Trucking Solutions and Ramirez to take the following corrective actions:
- Pay the driver $8,315.81 in back pay and interest, $75,000 in punitive damages, and $50,000 in compensatory damages for mental pain and emotional distress;
- Pay $21,378.05 in reasonable attorneys’ fees to the complainant’s attorneys; and
- Refrain from retaliating or discriminating against the complainant in any manner for exercising STAA rights.
In a statement, OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston said, “Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health. This order reinforces the agency’s commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to a safe workplace, and refuse to place themselves and the public at risk.”
Either party may appeal the order to the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.