We recently attended the First Annual Truck Driver Social Media Conference in Tunica, Mississippi. The conference was organized by Allen and Donna Smith, the fantastic trucker advocates with Ask the Trucker and Truth About Trucking. For more information about the conference, check out our prior post on the event. We met many wonderful people and learned a great deal about the important issues facing professional truck drivers.
Paul Taylor is one of the dynamic trucking advocates we met at the conference. Paul runs the Truckers Justice Center. He dedicates his law practice to representing truckers with employment law issues. If you have an employment law issue, you should call Paul. He is a wonderful advocate for truck drivers, and he is very knowledgeable about employment law issues.
Paul gave an informative presentation on the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (“STAA”). The STAA is a little known (but very important) federal law that protects truckers from being fired, or subject to other adverse employment action, for filing complaints related to safety regulations and refusing to operate a commercial vehicle in violation of safety regulations or where the trucker has a reasonable concern of serious injury, among other circumstances. Paul prepared a great summary of the STAA as part of his written presentation titled “Empowering Drivers Using the STAA”. The following are some of the highlights from Paul’s presentation:
- The STAA protects truckers who (a) file complaints “related to” violations of commercial vehicle safety regulations; (b) testify in proceedings “related to” violations of commercial vehicle safety regulations; (c) begin proceedings “related to” violations of commercial vehicle safety regulations; (d) refuse to operate a commercial vehicle in violation of a safety regulation; (e) refuse to operate a commercial vehicle based on a reasonable concern of serious injury; (f) accurately record on duty time records of duty status; (g) cooperate with security or safety investigation. These acts by truckers are known as “protected activities.”
- Under the STAA, drivers can recover job reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.
- Claims under the STAA are filed with the Secretary of Labor and investigated by OSHA. Claims must be filed within 180 days of the violation. Truckers can appeal OSHA’s decision to the Department of Labor, in which case the case will be heard by an administrative law judge.
- The trucker must show that the protected activity was a “contributing factor” to the adverse action against him. The trucking company/employer must then show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the company would have taken the same action even in the absence of the protective activity.
Paul’s materials include some very informative examples of cases where truckers successfully obtained compensation under the STAA for taking protected activity, including refusal to drive due to fatigue, illness, bad weather, and defective equipment. Paul also provides “Tips to Trucking Whistleblowers” which provides useful tips that should be followed by every truck driver engaged in protected activity under the STAA. The key tips include follow your company’s policies if safe and legal and don’t give your employer a legitimate reason to fire you. If you follow these tips, and your trucking company fires you anyways, you may have a claim under the STAA.
If you have any questions about the STAA, or think you may have a claim under the statute, feel free to contact us at 855-448-7887 (855-448-7887) or let us know in the comments area below, or on Facebook or Twitter. We love to hear what you have to say!