CHICAGO (CN) – A truck driver claims his boss broke his nose and fired him because he refused to haul a load of hazardous materials that was 2 tons overweight.
Willard Morris Jr. sued Ashland Inc. and Anthony Kuk in Cook County Court.
Morris says he worked for Ashland for 3½ years until he was fired in March 2010.
He says he reported to (nonparty) Mark Dewenger, Ashland’s package manager, who reported to Tony Kuk, the plant manager.
On Dec. 23, 2009, Morris says, Dewenger told him to drive a load of hazardous waste to a waste facility.
“Morris weighed the load and discovered that the load was grossly overweight and in violation of the Illinois Department of Transportation legal limits,” the complaint states. He says 84,000-lb. load was 2 tons over the gross weight limit, and 3 tons over the limit for the “rear tandem of the trailer.”
“Morris informed Dewenger that Morris would not haul the load until it was corrected to make the load legal,” the complaint states.
“Dewenger instructed Morris to haul the load without the correction and that Dewenger would pay any fines if Morris was caught.
“Morris refused to haul the uncorrected load.”
Morris says a supervisor “informed Dewenger that he should not force Morris to haul the overweight load. Morris was then given a different load to haul.”
Eight days later, Morris says, he filed a “Near Miss/Hazard Alert Report” with the company’s safety officer, and that “On information and belief Dewenger and Kuk were informed of the Near Miss/Hazard Alert Report filed by Morris shortly after its filing.”
The complaint states: “Approximately 45 minutes after the report was submitted, Morris was called into Kuk’s officer where Kuk informed Morris that Kuk had received a report from an Ashland employee that he had overheard Morris claim that he was going to file a false worker’s compensation claim and take six months off from work. Kuk refused to provide the name of the Ashland employee and refused to show Morris a copy of the report. Morris denied any such statement was made.”
Twelve days after that, Morris says, a union steward told him that Kuk claimed “that Morris was stealing time and taking too long with his deliveries and that Kuk was going to try and fire Morris.”
Morris says he tried to discuss the matter with Kuk, who “in an irate manner told Morris that Ashland was soon going to be short one employee. Kuk also stated that he had his finger on the trigger and that he could pull it at any time.”
Morris says Kuk called him into his office on Jan. 22, 2010, suspended him, and told him “to leave the premises,” the complaint states.
As he tried to leave Kuk’s office, Morris says, “Kuk came from behind Morris and hit Morris with great force on Morris’ shoulder and arm, causing Morris to lose his balance and slam his face into the door.”
Morris says he suffered a nasal fracture and deviated septum that required surgery, and that Ashland refused to pay him worker’s compensation, accusing him of filing a false report.
He seeks punitive damages for retaliation, whistleblower violations, battery and false imprisonment.
He is represented by Michelle Carey with Friedman, Maguire & Carey.