Case Analysis: Truck Driver Wrongful Termination

Carney R. Shegerian, founder of Shegerian & Associates, a Santa Monica-based law firm specializing in employee rights, has issued a statement aimed at all US employees in light of a recent news story surrounding a fired Cargo Express truck driver. In his statement, Shegerian singles out and commends driver T.J. Graff for bravely acting as a whistleblower regarding safety issues.

A Department of Labor judge last month ordered Cargo Express to pay Graff, who was deemed wrongfully terminated, $90,000 in back pay and punitive damages after the carrier fired him in retaliation for refusing to drive a truck that did not comply with safety standards. Graff was originally fired in June 2010 after he refused to drive the truck assigned by Cargo Express when he reported an oil leak and an air leak.

According to documents released by the court, Graff’s lawsuit was brought under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, which prohibits carriers from terminating or discriminating against drivers who express concern over violations or safety regulations or refuse to operate a vehicle because of them.

“According to what we know of this case, Mr. Graff did the responsible and safe thing by reporting safety concerns regarding the truck he was assigned to drive,” said Shegerian. “There’s an important lesson to be learned here and that is that when safety concerns are reported, the whistleblowers must be protected by the law, and can stand to benefit financially if their careers have suffered as a result of their whistleblowing.”

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