I. Overview of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (“STAA”).
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act ("STAA") prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because the employee engages in following "protected activities":
A. Filing complaints with an employer or the government “related to” a violation of commercial vehicle safety or security regulation (or being perceived as filing a complaint);
B. Being a witness in a proceeding “related to” a violation of a commercial vehicle safety or security regulation;
C. Refusing to drive in violation of any commercial vehicle safety regulation;
D. Refusing to drive based on a “reasonable apprehension of serious injury”.
E. Accurately recording on-duty time (driving and on-duty, not driving);
II. Burdens in an STAA Case.
The employee must prove that a protected activity was a contributing factor in an adverse action taken against him. Once an employee meets this burden the employer must show by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the adverse action in the absence of a protected activity, in order to avoid liability.
III. Relief Available under the STAA.
A successful employee in an STAA case is entitled to reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs. Compensatory damages include mental pain and emotional distress. See, Ferguson v. New Prime, Inc., ARB No. 10-075, ALJ No. 2009-STA-47 (ARB Aug. 31, 2011). Punitive damages may be recovered where necessary to punish the employer and to prevent future retaliation. Youngermann v. United Parcel Service, ARB No. 11-056, ALJ No. 2010-STA-47, at 12-13 (ARB Feb. 27, 2013). A prevailing employee is entitled to have adverse, retaliatory information removed from his employment records. See, Canter v. Maverick Transportation, LLC, ARB No. 11-012, 2009-STA-54 (ARB June 27, 2012). The Department of Labor usually orders the employer to post the decision favorable to the employee at all of its terminals. See, Carter v. Marten Transport, Ltd., ARB Nos. 06-101 & 06-159, ALJ No. 2005-STA-63, at 14 (ARB June 30, 2008).
Complaints of unlawful retaliation violating the STAA must be filed with the Federal OSHA not later than 180 days after the retaliation occurred." A party may object to OSHA's decision and request a formal hearing with the DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges within 30 days after OSHA's decision. If no objection is filed, OSHA's decision is final.