Today, the U.S. District Court in Bangor rejected UPS Cartage Services, Inc.’s (UPS) argument that a federal whistleblower law which protects truck drivers, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), did not prohibit it from retaliating against a truck driver who reported safety problems with its trucks. Former UPS truck driver, Dennis Manske, represented by the Maine Employee Rights Group, brought this case against UPS after it terminated him because he reported safety problems with its trucks.
As required by federal law, Mr. Manske documented many safety problems with UPS trucks that constituted violations of DOT regulations. These deficiencies included, but were not limited to, loose U-bolts; problems with mirrors; the use of a “city truck” on the highway even though it lacked the ability to sufficiently accelerate; a seat that did not adequately protect the driver’s head; and shocks so bad that they caused Mr. Manske to bounce up out of his seat and hit his head on the ceiling of the cab. Ultimately, UPS decided it did not want to employ Mr. Manske because he kept pointing out these safety problems with its trucks–even though federal law required him to point out the problems.
UPS argued that STAA and Maine’s Whistleblower Protection Act (MWPA) do not prohibit an employer from firing a truck driver for reporting these type of safety problems. In advancing this argument, UPS attempted to distort the facts. At one point in its opinion, the court went so far as to call UPS’s denial of certain facts “inexplicable and frivolous.” Ultimately, the court held that STAA prohibits trucking companies from retaliating against drivers who report the type of safety issues that Mr. Manske reported. The Court refrained from ruling on whether the MWPA prohibits this type of retaliation because it found that UPS had not adequately developed an argument on that issue.