Under federal law, employers may not dismiss, demote or otherwise discriminate against an employee. Presumably, this law also applies to trucking companies. Truck drivers who refuse to violate HOS regulations or operate a CMV in a manner that violates federal commercial motor vehicle regulations are protected under STAA (49 U.S.C. Section 31105) from trucking company retaliation and are encouraged to report such retaliation to FMCSA or OSHA.
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) is intended to provide a streamlined and effective remedy for truck drivers who are fired for insisting on compliance with federal motor carrier safety rules set by FMCSA. If a trucking company takes action against a driver for any complaint that protects the driver from retaliation, the driver can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which can result in the driver receiving reinstatement, lost wages and benefits, attorney’s fees and costs, and other compensation.
The OSH Act protects workers who report unsafe or unhealthy working conditions or environmental problems in the workplace to their employer, OSHA or other authorities. STAA prevents trucking companies from retaliating against a driver who invokes his or her rights under OSHA. The FMCSA also encourages truck drivers to report safety violations committed by their drivers.
Examples of actions protected by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act include:
Filing a complaint with the U.S. DOT for a violation or potential violation of commercial motor vehicle safety regulations.
File a complaint with your employer about a violation or potential violation of commercial motor vehicle safety standards.
Refusal to drive a commercial motor vehicle while impaired by illness or fatigue.
Refusing to drive a vehicle that exceeds the weight limit of the road.
Refusal to obey the rules on hours of service.
Refusing to drive a vehicle with defective lights, leaking exhaust system, inadequate brake pressure or adjustment.
Refusal to obey speed limits.
Refusing to drive in dangerous weather conditions.
Refusing to falsify a driving licence.
Trucking companies may not retaliate or discriminate against truck drivers who exercise their OSHA privileges. Discrimination may include the following actions:
- firing or discharge
- assigning unwanted shifts
- denying overtime or promotion
- Disciplinary action
- denial of benefits
- Failure to hire or rehire
- Transfer to
- Reassignment of work
- Reduction of pay or working hours
In most STAA cases, drivers refuse to drive if they are tired or if the load is considered dangerous. Trucking companies that reduce a driver’s pay by reducing the driver’s mileage in retaliation are in violation of STAA. If you feel that a trucking company has retaliated or discriminated against you, you can raise your concerns with OSHA. Learn More about it.
One study found that OSHA ruled in favor of the truck driver in only 31% of cases. However, in the vast majority of these cases, the worker chose to act without a lawyer familiar with labor law. The study also found that in many of the cases OSHA dismissed, appeals were successful. The Workplace Fairness Organization offers a resource for finding a lawyer who specializes in labor law.
But are OSHA, STAA and FMCSA working for truck drivers? Many truckers report that when they have approached OSHA or FMCSA about such issues, their complaints have gone unnoticed. In fact, drivers claim that they might as well have been “talking to a fence post” because OSHA or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has not taken any action.