The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement with Gaines Motor Lines and its owners that includes paying more than a quarter of a million dollars to resolve findings made by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A whistleblower complaint alleged that four former truck drivers were terminated for participating in an inspection audit conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that identified log violations at the company's headquarters in Hickory, North Carolina.

OSHA determined the firings were in violation of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, according to a release.

From Feb. 28 through March 1, 2012, the four employees were interviewed by the FMCSA. On March 8, following the audit and subsequent citations issued against Gaines Motor Lines, the workers suffered adverse retaliation by company officials, including termination, layoffs and removal of employee benefits, according to OSHA.

The settlement requires the employer to pay the four drivers a total of $262,500, which includes all back pay and interest, and compensatory damages.

The settlement also names company owners Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins, making them personally responsible for paying all the damages if the company goes out of business.