Trucking employees (STAA)
The attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm have experience litigating a wide variety of whistleblower retaliation claims on behalf of employees.
What laws protect Commercial Motor Carrier Whistleblowers?
In 2007, President Bush signed The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (“9/11 Act”). The 9/11 Act amended the provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (“STAA”) by expanding the scope of protected activity and enhancing remedies for commercial motor carrier employees. Under the amended STAA, employees who believe they have suffered adverse action for reporting transportation safety and security violations can file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor within 180 days of the date on which the adverse action was made and communicated to the employee.
What activities are protected?
An employee engages in protected activity by:
- Filing a complaint or beginning a proceeding related to a violation of STAA regulations;
- Refusing to operate a vehicle because the operation would violate a regulation, standard or order related to commercial motor vehicle safety, healthy or security;
- Accurately reporting hours on duty;
- Cooperating with a safety or security investigation by the DOT, DHS, or NTSB; or
- Furnishing information to the DOT, DHS, NTSB or any federal, state, or local law enforcement agency regarding an accident resulting in death or injury to a person in connection with commercial motor vehicle transportation.
What adverse actions are prohibited?
STAA prohibits any action taken by an employer which has a negative effect on the employee’s terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. This includes intimidation, blacklisting, termination, suspension, demotion, reduction in salary, failure to hire, harassment, and any act that would dissuade a reasonable person from engaging in further protected activity.
What must a plaintiff prove to prevail?
To prevail in a STAA case, an employee must establish that he engaged in protected activity and the protected activity was the likely reason for the adverse action.
What is the defendant’s burden of production?
If a plaintiff successfully establishes that his protected activity was the likely reason for an adverse action, an employer may avoid liability by providing a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. The ultimate burden shifts to the employee in demonstrating by a preponderance of evidence that the employer’s stated reason for the adverse action is false and that intentional retaliation resulting from the protected activity was present.
What can a prevailing plaintiff recover?
A prevailing plaintiff is entitled to reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory damages. In addition, a prevailing plaintiff can recover exemplary or punitive damages up to $250,000.