By Tim Devaney - 08/18/14 01:30 PM EDT
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is penalizing an asphalt company for firing truck drivers who refused to break federal laws prohibiting tired drivers from getting behind the wheel.
The Michigan-based Asphalt Specialists has been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in fines and backpay and reinstate three employees who complained that they were forced to violate hours-of-service laws by driving without enough rest between shifts.
“It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report work-related safety concerns or violations of federal transportation regulations, which require drivers to have a minimum 10-hour rest period between shifts,” said Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels. “OSHA is committed to protecting workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights.”
This comes just months after a high-profile truck crash that nearly killed famous comedian Tracy Morgan. The accident was blamed on a tired truck driver who dozed off behind the wheel.
The accident cast a national spotlight on hours-of-services rules for truck drivers.
On Monday, OSHA ordered Asphalt Specialists to pay the three employees a total of $953,916 in backpay and damages, after they were fired between 2012 and 2013 for refusing to drive.
On at least two occasions the drivers were asked to work more than 27 consecutive hours, according to OSHA.
The company can appeal OSHA's decision.