STAA Whistleblower Claims

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act, 49 U.S.C. Section 31105, prohibits employers in the transportation industry from disciplining, discharging or taking other adverse action against a driver who engages in certain “protected activity.” Protected Activity includes but is not limited to: (1) Refusing to operate a vehicle if the operation would violate a safety or security regulation; (2) Refusing to operate a vehicle because of a “reasonable apprehension of serious injury”; (3) Filing a complaint or proceeding related to a violation of safety or security regulation; or (4) Accurately reporting hours on duty.

Once an employee establishes that his or her protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action, an employer must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” (which is a higher standard of proof than a preponderance of the evidence) that it would have taken the same action in the absence of the protected activity. This can be a heavy burden for the employer to carry.

The STAA is also a “make whole” statute. When a claimant prevails in a claim under the STAA, the fact finder (be it OSHA, a judge, or a jury) has the power to order any and all remedies necessary to make the employee whole, including: reinstatement; back pay with interest; compensatory damages (mental or emotional distress); punitive damages up to $250,000; and attorney’s fees and costs. A well-coordinated defense is critical for these potentially dangerous claims.

Our attorneys have over 80 combined years of experience defending trucking companies against numerous types of claims, from overheight/overweight citations to catastrophic highway accidents. Since the enactment of the STAA, we have combined this experience with our experience in labor and employment law to assist trucking companies in preventing and defending against claims under the STAA.