The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is ordering NFI Interactive Logistics to reinstate and compensate a driver who was fired for refusing to violate hours of service to complete a delivery.
In August 2012, NFI had assigned the driver to deliver Poland Spring bottled water from Northborough, Mass., to Jersey City, N.J., but due to severe weather and flooding, the trip took longer than expected. The driver did not believe he had enough time to complete the delivery and return home without violating hours of service restrictions.
To solve the dilemma, the driver delivered the load to a closer customer facility in Kearny, N.J., but NFI objected to this solution. When the delivery arrived in Kearny, arrangements were made to have a different NFI driver take the load to its original destination. Both NFI and the customer approved the new arrangement, according to the Department of Labor.
The load was eventually delivered and the driver was able to return home without violating hours of service. NFI fired him the next day for insubordination and the driver filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. OSHA investigated the driver’s complaint and ultimately found merit to the case.
Both the driver and NFI each have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
“The law is clear: Drivers have the right to raise legitimate safety concerns to their employer– including refusing to violate safety regulations– without fear of termination or other retaliation,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “NFI must reverse its actions and compensate this driver for the financial and other losses he has suffered as a result of his illegal termination.”
As a result of its findings, OSHA is ordering NFI to take the following corrective actions:
- Immediately reinstate the driver to his former position, with all rights, seniority, pay raises and benefits to which he was entitled absent the discharge.
- Pay the driver $126,870 in back pay and interest covering the period from August 17, 2012 to June 7, 2016, plus additional amounts accruing up to the day the company makes the driver a bona fide offer of reinstatement.
- Pay him $50,000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering, including emotional distress, depression, mental pain, humiliation and embarrassment.
- Pay him $100,000 in punitive damages and also pay his reasonable attorney fees.
- Expunge from all of its files any reference to the discharge, or the driver’s exercise of his rights under STAA.
- Make no adverse statements about the driver’s termination and/or any of the facts at issue in this case in response to any inquiry regarding his employment with NFI.
- Not retaliate against the driver in any manner for his instituting or causing to be instituted any proceeding under or related to STAA.
- Immediately post in a conspicuous location in its workplace a signed and dated notice to employees informing them of the order and their rights under STAA.