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Asphalt contractor’s tab for firing hours of service-wise staff nears $1M

Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration; CP staff

Finding Asphalt Specialists Inc. violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by terminating a foreman and two truck drivers who had expressed hours of service compliance concerns, OSHA has ordered the Pontiac, Mich., paving contractor to pay $954,000 in back wages plus compensatory and punitive damages.

"It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report work-related safety concerns or violations of federal transportation regulations, which require drivers to have a minimum 10-hour rest period between shifts," says Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

After repeatedly raising concerns to an Asphalt Specialists co-owner about exceeding hours of service thresholds when job assignments failed to allow for the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s rest period, the foreman was terminated in June 2012. A second truck driver was terminated in April 2013 after questioning the number of work hours the contractor required and refusing to sign an affidavit denying a work requirement in excess of legally permitted hours. A third driver was terminated three months later after citing vehicle maintenance and driving-time concerns. OSHA has ordered Asphalt Specialists to reinstate the three employees; in addition to back wages, they will receive $50,000 (foreman) and $30,000 (drivers) in compensatory damages, and $200,000 each in punitive damages.

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act prohibits private fleet owners from discharging or retaliating against employees for refusing to operate a vehicle because doing so would either violate a federal commercial motor vehicle rule related to safety, health or security, or because the employee had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to themselves or the public because of a vehicle's safety or security condition. The back wage and damages order is subject to OSHA Office of Administrative Law Judges appeal by any of the parties in the case.