Fleet must pay 4 drivers $1M after firing them for participating in agency inspection

Gaines Motor Lines has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay four former employees $1.07 million after the DOL determined their termination was in violation of whistle blower protection laws.

The labor department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleges four truck drivers were fired for participating in an inspection audit by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at the company’s headquarters in Hickory, N.C. The drivers were interviewed Feb. 28 and March 1, and FMCSA issued citations against the fleet March 8.

The four drivers were fired or laid off afterward.

OSHA issued Nov. 13 a complaint against the carrier and Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins. Gaines is listed on the company’s website as one of two who runs the 148-truck fleet. Tompkins’ role was not available.

OSHA says the drivers were fired in violation of provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act and has ordered the company to reinstate three of the four drivers. The fourth died earlier this year.

Gaines must also pay $215,657 in back wages, interest and compensatory damages and $675,000 in punitive damages.