Legal Myths, Part III: Can You Sue an MRO If You Fail A Drug Test?

This is the third installment in our video and blog series on legal myths. The first focused on the issue of warrantless searches of sleeper berths. The second focused on the issue of whether or not a carrier must give drivers copies of load confirmation sheets. Watch our third video in this series on YouTube here.

This installment of the series focuses on another topic that has caused drivers confusion and consternation on a number of fronts: drug testing. Often issues arise when a driver contests the results revealed by a drug test. In particular, our firm often gets calls from drivers who want to sue the MRO (medical review officer) who performed their drug test, a scenario arising after the employee has tested positive but disagrees with the result.

An MRO is someone who is designated by the carrier to confirm a positive controlled substance test. Their job is simply to call employees to inform them when they have tested positive, and to give the employee an opportunity to provide an explanation for the testing result. For example, the MRO might call an employee with information that the employee tested positive for a given drug, and the employee might truthfully respond that the employee has a doctor’s prescription for that drug.

It is important to remember that an MRO is not your doctor. It is also important to remember that neither is the MRO your company’s doctor. Rather, an MRO is someone defined within the specific meaning of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing regulations. As such, they do not engage in malpractice when they merely relay the results of a positive test to the tested employee. Such actions have been attempted in court but have not been successful.

If you believe you claim against your doctor and are considering pursuing legal action, give our firm a call (952) 657-5780! We’ll be happy to talk you through the options you can pursue.

Legal Myths, Part II: Does a Carrier Have to Show Driver Load Confirmation Sheets?

This is the second blog post to accompany our video series on legal myths. The previous blog post/video sought to dispel some inaccurate beliefs that drivers may have about their rights to be free from searches of their sleeper berths.

This video and blog post focuses on another common misconception by addressing the question, are carriers required to show load confirmation sheets to owner-operator drivers? Even though it may seem likely that this would be the rule required by the regulations governing federal motor carriers, it is not a strict requirement. Rather, other options exist for a carrier to comply with the law.

The Department of Transportation’s truth-in-leasing regulations state that, if you are paid based on a percentage, you are entitled either to receive a copy of the invoice given to customers (referred to in the regulations as the “rated freight bill”), or instead to receive a computer-generated settlement document containing the same information contained on a rated freight bill. This information includes:

  • Origin
  • Destination
  • Miles
  • Piece count
  • Possibly weight (in the case of LTL shipping)
  • Charges to customer including linehaul and any fuel surcharges

If your employer gives you a computer-generated settlement that contains this information, it suffices as an invoice that gives you proof of what the customer is being charged.

Finally, regardless of how you are paid—whether by the load, mile, hour, day, week, etc.—carriers must provide employees with the rate circulars, rate confirmation sheets, and tariff sheets, and other methods the employer uses to calculate employee compensation. The employer can block out the customers’ identifying information on these sheets, and they don’t have to give you physical copies, but your employer must produce and show you this information if you have given your employer reasonable notice that you are requesting it.

Legal Myths, Part I: Is a Warrant Necessary to Search a Sleeper Berth?

Do you want to stay informed and get clarity on many of the legal issues that can lead to confusion for employees working in the transportation industry? Consider subscribing to our YouTube channel (LINK) or follow us on Facebook (LINK) to stay updated with our video series on these legal topics. Visit this link to view a video covering this post's topic.

One of our video series addresses “legal myths” that are often believed by people working in the transportation industry. The first of our videos in this series addresses the question of particular importance to those working in the field of trucking: Can a sleeper berth be searched without a warrant?

If your immediate response to this question is “no,” you may be surprised. The Fourth Amendment is the foundation that drivers might turn to as support for their belief that a warrant is necessary for a search to be conducted on one’s sleeper berth. Indeed, the Fourteenth Amendment does protect the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Given this explicit language in the U.S. Constitution, one might think a relatively unique situation would be created for over-the-road drivers who perform long, multi-day hauls. Given that many drivers can live out of their trucks for weeks and even months on end, the idea might arise that one’s truck should therefore count as one’s “home” for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment’s protections.

However reasonable a driver might think that is, the case law does not support this expectation. First, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t provide a blanket protection against seizures. Rather, what it guarantees is that your “persons, houses, papers, and effects” are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, and “probable cause” must be established before a warrant can be issued.

More to the point, since a sleeper berth has not been legally defined to count as a “home” under the Fourth Amendment, drivers are unable to draw on that constitutional amendment in arguing that their sleeper berth cannot searched without a warrant. Since it is not considered a home, probable cause does not need to be established before it can be searched.

Prior case law has found that no warrant is necessary for searching other mobile home-like units that people may live in for extended periods, even indefinitely, like Winnebagos and motorhomes. Courts have been unwilling to construe these mobile homes as protected by the Fourth Amendment, in large part because it could create significant evidentiary obstacles—namely, important evidence could be stored in the unit, a litigant could deny access until a warrant was issued, and in the meantime the evidence could be transported to another jurisdiction before the warrant had been issued or the underlying litigation concluded.

In sum, even if you have been living extensively in it, your sleeper berth is not protected from warrantless searches under the Fourth Amendment. This can come as a surprise, which is why it is part of our video series seeking to dispel common myths people in the transportation industry have about the law.

Are you an employee facing a legal problem, or who believes your rights have been violated? Contact us at (952) 657-5780 if you’d like to speak with an expert who will be happy to talk with you about your possible options for pursuing legal action.