The U.S. Department of Labor recently ruled in favor of a truck driver who was fired for refusing to drive a tractor-trailer in bad weather.
Jack Leedale of Newton, KS, was fired by Shoney's in Wichita, KS, in March 1998 after refusing to drive in a late-winter storm. He filed a complaint with the Secretary of Labor alleging that Shoney's had discriminated against him for refusing to operate the vehicle in violation of federal motor carrier safety regulations.
Unwritten company policy required drivers to report for duty then go as far as they could until conditions became so unfavorable that the driver would have to pull off the road and stay in a hotel.
After Leedale refused to report to work, the late winter storm dumped 7 to 15 inches of snow all along Leedale's route, including from his home in Newton to Wichita, where his run was to have begun. Other drivers reported windy conditions, snow, drifts and black ice that made driving treacherous. Hundreds of motorists were stranded, many major routes were closed, and several serious accidents were reported.
The Labor Secretary found that Shoney's terminated Leedale for his "engagement in protected activities, namely his refusal to operate a commercial motor vehicle when such operation would create a hazard to himself or the public."
The secretary ordered Shoney's to reinstate Leedale, pay him nearly $15,000 in lost wages and interest, pay him two week's vacation pay of $1,330, reimburse him for $7,646 in medical expenses because he lost health insurance when fired, and pay his attorney's fees of more than $7,000. Leedale is also requesting $100,000 for pain and suffering.