Claiming that Star Air Inc., a North Canton, Ohio-based trucking company, has not complied with orders to reinstate two employees and pay $612,205 in connection to a whistleblower case, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has a filed a lawsuit in federal court against the company and owner Robert R. Custer.
According to DOL, Star Air terminated two truck drivers in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act's (STAA) whistleblower provisions. The drivers were dismissed after one was stopped by West Virginia State Police and cited for hauling an excess load without a commercial driver's license; operating an overweight trailer; driving a commercial vehicle that did not have the name of the company, its home base and its U.S. Department of Transportation number displayed; and driving without a log book. The cited driver told another driver, and both refused to continue driving until these issues were resolved. Consequently, both were terminated, DOL said.
The drivers subsequently filed complaints with OSHA alleging that Star Air had discriminated against them in retaliation for activities protected by the STAA.
"These drivers were fired for trying to protect themselves and the driving public," said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels. "OSHA will continue to defend America's truck drivers who are retaliated against by unscrupulous employers when they refuse to drive while fatigued, ill or in violation of truck weight or hours-of-service requirements."
The Labor Department's Administrative Review Board issued a final decision to Star Air on Dec. 19, 2011, requiring the company to reinstate the two employees and pay $602,366, including back wages in the amount of $341,894 for one driver and $181,468 for the other, as well as $79,004 in attorney fees. On Jan. 18, the review board ordered Star Air to pay supplemental attorney fees of $9,839.
To date, DOL said, Star Air has not taken any action to comply, prompting the department's suit, which has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division in Akron.
EHS Today’s efforts to reach Star Air Inc. for comment were unsuccessful.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. More information is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.