A truck driver has filed suit against a California trucking company who he says fired him because he refused read texts from his supervisor while he was behind the wheel.
Driver Thomas R. Aylott, 53, filed the lawsuit against Commodity Trucking Acquisition, LLC in a San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday.
Trucker Says Manager Insisted On Communicating Via Text Rather Than Phone
According to the suit, Aylott had a conversation with manager James Cloud in March 2017 during which Aylott told Cloud that he would not text and drive and that if Cloud needed to contact him while he was on the road, he should call so that Aylott could communicate via a hands-free bluetooth device.
Then, on April 7, Aylott was making a run from Riverside County to San Diego, according to court documents. While en route, Cloud texted Aylott to ask him to make a stop before returning to the trucking company. Aylott says he did not see the text until he pulled over to buy a bottle of water. When he did see Cloud’s text, Aylott says that he called Cloud and once again reminded him to call rather than text.
From the suit:
“Cloud responded with obvious frustration, commenting that Aylott should text and drive” like everyone else.” Aylott refused Cloud’s illegal demand, and reiterated that texting and driving was illegal and against Commodity Trucking’s policy.”
Aylott reported the incident to the company’s safety director.
Trucker Allegedly Fired For Refusing To Text While Driving
One week later, Cloud fired Aylott. When asked why he was being terminated, Cloud reportedly said that “Aylott was “too old to change [his] ways,” and pointed to Aylott’s refusal to text and drive as an example.”
Aylott reportedly appealed to Commodity Trucking’s COO, John F. Sullivan III, who refused to intervene in the matter.
The suit seeks punitive damages against Commodity Trucking because it violated laws on whistleblower retaliation and because it violated public policy by firing Aylott for refusing to text and drive. The suit also alleges that Commodity Trucking discriminated against Aylott due to his age.