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DOL ALJ Orders Whistleblower Truck Driver Reinstated at Beacon Transport

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U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge Joseph E. Kane ordered whistleblower Edward Schrieber reinstaed with his former employer Beacon Transport, Inc.  ALJ Kane also awarded Schrieber back pay and attorneys’ fees.

Beacon Transport had fired Schrieber after he had refused to haul cargo in his truck.  Truck drivers travelling on interstate highways are allowed to carry up to 80,000 lbs.  In addition to gross weight, there are also limitations for the amount of weight an individual axle may carry.  Every motor carrier shall issue a receipt or bill of lading for property tendered for transportation in interstate commerce indicating the freight’s weight.  On September 22, 2009, Schrieber was given a bill of lading for the cargo that did not include the freight’s weight.  Several days following Schrieber’s refusal to haul the cargo, Beacon Transport fired him.

The ALJ ruled that Schrieber’s apprehension that the cargo was unsafe to haul was objectively reasonable.  The ALJ further held that Shrieber’s refusal to haul the cargo was a contributing factor in the employer’s decision to fire him. Therefore, Schrieber’s termination was unlawful under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).

The ALJ held that unless the employer provided evidence that Schrieber failed to mitigate his damages, Schrieber is entitled to full back pay up until the employer provides an offer of reinstatement.  Under STAA,  the burden is on the employer to establish any failure by a wrongfully discharged employee to properly mitigate damages through the pursuit of alternative employment.

The opinion is Schrieber v. Beacon Transport, Inc., Case No: 2010-STA-70.

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