In a time when drivers are increasingly undervalued, especially by their own employers, it is necessary to know your rights and stand up for yourself. There are rules in place to help keep drivers safe, but when those safeguards fail, there are avenues for drivers to make their voices heard and hold their companies responsible. Some drivers can’t afford to risk losing their job by reporting issues, some drivers report issues and get no recompense (or a payment so small it’s insulting), but some drivers – a lucky few – receive justice and get paid their due. Or at least, that’s what they thought.
In 2011, two drivers blew the whistle on Star Air, a trucking company based in North Carolina for wrongfully terminating them after they refused to drive with an unsafe load. They reported the incident to OSHA and the case ended up going to court. On December 19th, 2011, the Labor Department’s Administrative Review Board issued a final decision which forced the company to rehire both employees and pay them a total of $ 612,205 in restitution, back wages, and attorney fees. Star Air has yet to release any funds, nor have they rehired either driver.
The U.S. Department of Labor has just filed a lawsuit in federal court that would enforce the 2011 ruling and hold both Star Air and its owner, Robert Custer, responsible for the fines. The suit is being filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division in Akron.
“These drivers were fired for trying to protect themselves and the driving public,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA will continue to defend America’s truck drivers who are retaliated against by unscrupulous employers when they refuse to drive while fatigued, ill, or in violation of truck weight or hours-of-service requirements.”
If you would like to report an incident to OSHA, you can do so by visiting their website here or you can visit or mail a letter to your local OSHA office.