Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA)
Many truck drivers in El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces New Mexico do not realize that they have protection if they report safety violations or refuse to take a load under unsafe conditions cannot be retaliated against. Truck drivers have rights under the STAA Act. Under this statute.
What kind of activities are covered by STAA?
1. Refusals to drive when you are is tired or the load is unsafe.
2. Making a complaint to the United State Department of Transportation USDOT about violations, or possible violations, of commercial vehicle safety regulations.
3. Making a complaint to your employer about violations, or possible violations, of commercial vehicle safety regulations.
4. Testifying at a union grievance hearing or arbitration hearing where the subject of the hearing involves violations, or possible violations, of commercial vehicle safety regulations.
5. Refusing to drive a commercial vehicle when impaired due to illness or fatigue.
6. Refusing to drive a vehicle that exceeds highway weight restrictions.
7. Refusing to violate hours-of-service regulations.
8. Refusing to drive a vehicle with defective lamps, leaky exhaust systems, inadequate brake pressure or adjustment.
9. Refusing to violate speed limits.
10. Refusing to drive in hazardous weather.
11. Insisting on thoroughly inspecting equipment to make sure it is safe to operate.
12. Refusing to falsify a log book.
You are protected even if you are wrong as long as you make the complaint in good faith.
The above are just some examples, the law is to be read broadly to protect commercial truck drivers from retaliation.
What are the procedures to file a complaint if you are a commercial truck driver and you believe you have been retaliated against?
First you must file a claim with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.(“OSHA”) within 180 days. (you should file your complaint as soon as the retaliation takes place — don’t rely on any grievance or internal procedures to necessarily toll the limitations – You should seek competent employment lawyer immediately to help you with this procedure) However, You can file your complaint here: https://www.osha.gov/pls/osha7/eComplaintForm.html You should first try and file your complaint with the local OSHA office where your are working. OSHA has 60 days to review your complaint (they may take longer). Once OSHA makes a decisions (in your favor or not in your favor) either party has 30 days to appeal to the Administrative Law Judge and request a hearing. Copies of the complaint must be mailed to the Chief Administrative law Judge (ALJ), the Administrator and the opposing party. A hearing should take place within 30 days unless the parties want to agree to a delay in this time to conduct discovery. Either party can appeal the ALJ decision to the Court of Appeals (for New Mexico this is the 10th Cir. and for Texas this would be the 5th Cir.) within 60 days.
What damages can I be awarded if I win?
3. front pay,
4.compensatory damages for such items as emotional distress and loss of reputation,
5. interest on damages; and,
5 attorney fees and costs including expert fees and other cost to bring the claim.
There is a $250,000 cap on the damages.
This can be a complicated procedure but is something that should be in known by all commercial truck drivers inthe El Paso and Las Cruces area. An experienced wrongful termination lawyer can advise you on the STAA law . Also there may be other laws as well as the STAA law which can provide you benefits. It is important to see a board certified labor and employment lawyer in Texas if you have a legitimate claim of wrongful termination or whistle-blower violation.