For the second time in less than a month, carrier Marten Transport has been ordered to pay a former driver for firing him after he refused to haul an illegal load. This time, it cost them over $100,000.
At the beginning of February, Marten was ordered to pay Cedric Sinkfield over $50,000 for firing him after he refused to haul an overweight load. Marten announced that they plan to appeal the decision because they claim that Sinkfield was fired for multiple other infractions.
In the most recent case, the driver in question claims that he was pushed to resign by the carrier after he had refused to haul two separate overweight loads and had turned down three other loads because he would have violated his HOS regulations.
Like the previous case however, Marten maintains that the driver, Brandon Hopper had a history of missed loads and a poor work ethic. In a statement filed with the court, the carrier claims that they didn’t fire Hopper, but rather reassigned him to drive in a different region which caused Hopper to leave the company voluntarily. Marten also claims that the refused loads would not have placed him out of service as Hopper claims, though Hopper’s dispatcher at the time said they would have.
Despite their protestations, Department of Labor Administrative Judge Christine Kirby found that the testimony from Marten employees was “inconsistent and vague,” and that the rejected loads had indeed been overweight.
Judge Kirby ruled on February 22nd that Hopper was protected by federal labor laws and was due $50,000 in lost pay and $50,000 in punitive damages.
Hopefully carriers will be less likely to push drivers to take illegal loads or drive over their allowable hours now that the driver coercion rule is in effect.