Trucking companies beware: Know the law before you act

| Jan 16, 2021 | employment law, transportation & logistics

Running all of the aspects of a trucking company requires great attention to detail. Employers must organize timetables, shipments as well as drivers to ensure they fulfill their contracts and maintain success.

Owners of transportation companies know they must also pay close attention to the letter of state and federal laws to avoid complex legal matters. A recent case only emphasizes the importance of understanding the nuances of the law.

Trucking company ordered to compensate employee

Baker & Associates is not involved in this case, but it is critical that all business owners understand and learn from the details of this recent case.

Earlier this year, California company JHOS Logistics and Transportation Inc. terminated an employee when he would not drive a truck he believed exceeded weight restrictions. This situation might seem rather simple and straightforward; however, it was anything but.

Terminating an employee always requires great care. Employers must ensure they do not violate the law. And in this case, terminating this employee was in direct violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). The STAA states that employers cannot discharge an employee if they:

  • File a complaint regarding a violation; or
  • Refuse to drive a vehicle if it violates safety standards.

Therefore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that the company violated the law and ordered the company to:

  • Rehire the employee;
  • Repay $190,000 in lost wages;
  • Pay $25,000 in punitive damages; and
  • Cover $5,000 in compensation and attorney fees.

OSHA’s order also requires the company to train supervisors and managers regarding employee protections to prevent situations like this from occurring in the future.

Employers must take time to understand the law

This case illustrates only one of the reasons companies must be consciously aware of employment laws. Additionally, maintaining a thorough understanding of these laws allows business owners and employers to:

  • Prevent risks related to terminating an employee;
  • Protect the business from litigation; and
  • Avoid significant financial consequences.

Unfortunately, employers face a high risk of liability under the law in cases like this. They can reduce that risk if they take time to understand the law, but it might be helpful to consult a knowledgeable business attorney before moving forward.