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Old 11-21-2012, 08:16 PM
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Default Judge Finds R&L Carriers Wrongfully Fired Driver for Refusing to Drive in Bad Weather

In a decision issued on November 20, 2011, a Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge vindicated truck driver Rob Fink’s decision to refuse to pull a double trailer set from Hagerstown, Maryland to Norristown, Pennsylvania due to hazardous weather conditions. Fink’s attorney, Paul Taylor of the Truckers Justice Center, filed a claim for Fink with the Department of Labor under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act which protects commercial drivers from retaliation for refusing to operate a commercial vehicle in violation of a safety law or regulation, or for refusing to drive based upon a reasonable safety concern.

On the afternoon of January 11, 2011 Mr. Fink observed heavy blowing snow near his home. Weather reports sources forecasted heavy, blowing snow, icy road surfaces, with wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour along his scheduled route of travel. When Mr. Fink drove his four-wheel drive vehicle a short distance that afternoon the roads were slippery, with heavy winds and snow. When he returned home from the store he continued to monitor weather reports which called for conditions to worsen overnight. Reports advised drivers to stay off the roads that evening.

Mr. Fink was fired after he told his supervisors that he would not be taking his assigned run that evening due to hazardous driving conditions. Due to the loss of his job Mr. Fink and his family experienced financial difficulties resulting in the loss of his home

Labor Department Judge Linda Chapman found that R&L unlawfully retaliated against Mr. Fink by firing for his refusal to drive due to reasonable concerns over safety stating that “the right of the Respondent [R&L Carriers] to conduct its business over the interstate highways, must be balanced against the safety of its employees, and the public that travels on those interstate highways. That is precisely why the Act permits a driver who has a reasonable concern that weather conditions are too hazardous to take a truck on the highways to refuse to do so, without fear of reprisal.”

Judge Chapman ordered R&L to reinstate Mr. Fink as a driver, to pay him in excess of $30,000 in back wages, his attorney fees and $100,000 for the mental pain and emotional distress. Fink’s attorney, Paul Taylor, indicated that this is the largest award ever for mental pain and emotional distress under the Surface Transportation Assistant Act.

Judge Chapman also ordered R&L to pay fink punitive damages in the amount of $50,000 stating that R&L’s “conduct reflects a degree of conscious disregard for how its practices obstruct Congress’s mandate in the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, and that punitive damages are appropriate to correct and deter this conduct.”

Mr. Fink’s attorney, Paul Taylor, may be reached by calling the Truckers Justice Center at 651-454-5800

Here is a link to the decision in Fink v. R & L Carriers Shared Service:
http://www.oalj.dol.gov/Decisions/AL...5_CADEC_SD.PDF
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