Mass Court: Illegal for Employer Garnishment of Truck Driver’s Wages for Trucking Accidents

Massachusetts Truck AccidentsThe Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an interesting decision concerning whether it is legal for a Trucking Company to unilaterally garnish its employees wages as punishment for Truck Accidents.

The Mass. Supreme Judicial Court issued a resounding “NO” in determining that it is illegal for a  MA Trucking Company to unilaterally garnish its own employees wages as a result of a truck crash causing damages or personal injury.

Case: CAMARA v. ATTORNEY GENERAL

Issue Presented: ” In this case we consider whether the written policy of the plaintiff ABC Disposal Service, Inc. (ABC), under which a worker found by ABC to be at fault in an accident involving company trucks may agree to a deduction from earned wages in lieu of discipline, violates a key provision of the Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L. c. 149, § 148 (§ 148).”

Key facts: “In an effort to promote safety and to decrease careless driving, ABC in recent years established a policy whereby drivers determined to be at fault are given an option of either accepting disciplinary action or entering into an agreement to set off the damages against their wages. The determination of fault is made after the ABC safety officer reviews records related to the incident and reports his findings to the safety manager. If the safety manager, in consultation with ABC management, determines the incident was a “preventable accident,” see note 6, supra, she offers the driver a choice of making payment for the damages or accepting discipline. The findings of the safety manager as to whether an accident was preventable and the amount of damages are final and not subject to any appeal process. A driver determined by ABC to be at fault may enter into a written agreement with ABC for the payment of the cost of the damage by way of a setoff against wages due to the employee. Some drivers have chosen to accept disciplinary action instead of paying damages. Of those employees who have agreed to permit a setoff by ABC, the average setoff is fifteen dollars to thirty dollars per week. In no instance has a driver’s pay, net of setoffs for driver fault, fallen below minimum wage standards. Between 2003 and 2006, ABC’s costs attributable to damage done to vehicles and personal property has been reduced by seventy-eight per cent. ABC attributes this reduction to implementation of this policy.”

Decision and reasoning of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial  Court: “”An arrangement whereby ABC serves as the sole arbiter, making a unilateral assessment of liability as well as amount of damages with no role for an independent decision maker, much less a court, and, apparently, not even an opportunity for an employee to challenge the result within the company, does not amount to “a clear and established debt owed to the employer by the employee.” See id. at 593, 911 N.E.2d 739.13 The option afforded ABC’s employees to choose “voluntarily” to accept either wage deductions or discipline offers them only unpalatable choices. This procedure does not come close to providing an employee the protections granted a defendant in a formal negligence action.”

Editors Notes: Semi Truck accidents, 18 Wheeler Accidents and Tractor Trailor accidents are serious problems across Massachusetts and The United States. This self serving policy by MA trucking Companies is not only self serving and heavy handed it violates the law. If you are involved in a Semi accident in Mass.  or Rhode Island Please contact Massachusetts Truck accident Lawyer, David Slepkow.

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.

Truck Accident Statistics  http://www.legalinfo.com/content/truck-accidents/truck-accident-statistics.html

 

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