Many 18 wheeler truck drivers are pressured by their employers to drive over the maximum hours of service, when they are sick, with unsafe vehicles, or under other conditions that are not safe. Like most workers, the fear of losing the job may make the employee think he or she must do what the employer says.
However, it is important to know that you have protections under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) - 49 U.S.C. §31105. STAA is a whistleblower type federal law that is designed to protect truck drivers (and other workers) from retaliation, including losing their job, for refusing to engage in something they objectively believe could cause serious injury.
If you are a truck driver, mechanic, or loader (and other positions that directly affect commercial motor vehicle safety) and refuse to engage in an activity assigned to you by the company because you have a “reasonable apprehension” that the activity will cause serious injury, that company cannot lawfully fire, discipline, or discriminate against you.
An employee has a “reasonable apprehension” of serious injury if a reasonable individual in the circumstances then confronting the employee would conclude that the hazardous safety or security condition establishes a real danger of accident, injury, or serious impairment to health. To qualify for protection, the employee must have sought from the employer, and been unable to obtain, correction of the hazardous safety or security condition. In order to be protected by STAA, the employee must not engage in the unsafe or unlawful activity and then later complain about it. Contact the Vaught Firm before you act to learn more about your rights.
Examples of Protected Activities Under STAA:
It is illegal for a company to engage in an adverse employment action (e.g. firing, demotion, cutting hours of work, etc.) if you do any of the following:
The foregoing are only examples of protected activity, so contact the Vaught Firm for a consultation at no cost to you to learn more about what activities are protected under STAA.
STAA Applies to Employees and Independent Contractors of Companies
STAA protects workers regardless of whether they are employees of a company or are labeled as independent contractors for a company.
Deadline to Act Under STAA
Generally, if you believe you have experienced an adverse employment action (i.e. demoted, fired, hours cut, etc.) for engaging in activity that is protected by STAA (i.e. refusing to drive in unsafe conditions), you must file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor (OSHA) within 180 calendar days from the date you first learned about the company’s decision to impose the adverse employment action. However, consulting with a lawyer is recommended to navigate this area where companies will typically have more resources than you in presenting a case. You may also need legal advice on how to properly present a case.
What Can You Recover Under STAA?
If your STAA claim is successful, the law says you must be “made whole.” That includes:
This webpage should not be considered legal advice. Contact the Vaught Firm for a no cost initial consultation to learn more about the applicable law relative to your specific situation. The content of this page is based on federal law within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Texas state law.