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Whistleblower Law Blog

Topic: Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA)

Conrail Must Reinstate Conductor While Appealing Retaliation Verdict, ARB Rules

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) refused to delay the reinstatement of a train conductor who was fired after repeatedly reporting safety violations.

» Read more

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Union Pacific Railroad Agrees to Pay Whistleblower $38,000 to Settle Allegations of Retaliating Against Him for Reporting a Work-Related Injury

Omaha, Nebraska-based Union Pacific Railroad Co. has agreed to pay an employee $38,561.92 in punitive damages for violating the whistleblower provision for the Federal Railroad Safety Act when it retaliated against an employee who reported a work-related injury.

An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that after two coupled cars came apart on July 8, 2011, the employee, a switchman in Union Pacific’s Topeka, Kansas yard, suffered the loss of two teeth and several facial lacerations when he was struck by cars being moved. After the employee reported the injury, the railroad company issued him with a ten day unpaid suspension, even though evidence showed that the employee was not at fault.  Employees that had not reported injuries either were not disciplined or received lesser penalties.

In addition to paying the $38,561.92 settlement, Union Pacific must remove disciplinary references from the employee’s personnel record and post a notice throughout the Kansas City Service Unit informing employees of their whistleblower rights.

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

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OSHA Orders Norfolk Southern Railway to Pay Whistleblowers Over $800,000 after Finding that the Company Terminated Them for Reporting Work Injuries

Norfolk Southern Railway, a railroad operator based in Norfolk, Virginia, has been ordered by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to pay $802,168.70 to settle allegations that it violated the whistleblower provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act when it terminated three employees who reported work injuries.

According to OSHA, this lawsuit, in part, stems from ongoing investigations into allegations that Norfolk Southern retaliates against employees who report work-related injuries. This settlement addresses three concurrent investigations involving a laborer in Greenville, South Carolina, an engineer in Louisville, Kentucky, and a railroad conductor in Harrison, Pennsylvania. In these three cases, the individuals that reported the injuries to OSHA had themselves been injured on the job. OSHA’s investigations found that Norfolk Southern either began treating the injured employees less favorably or they alleged that the employees had falsified their work-related injuries.

In addition to paying over $800,000, Norfolk Southern has been ordered to remove all disciplinary records from the whistleblowers files, post a notice regarding employees’ whistleblower rights and provide employees with proper training regarding these rights.

Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels stated:

“Firing workers for reporting an injury is not only illegal, it also endangered all workers. When workers are discouraged from reporting injuries, no investigation into the cause of the injury can occur… To prevent more injuries, railroad workers must be able to report an injury without fear of retaliation. The Labor Department will continue to protect all employees, including those in the railroad industry, from retaliation for exercising these basic worker rights. Employers found in violation will be held accountable.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

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DOL Orders Union Pacific Railroad to Pay Whistleblowers more than $615,000

The U.S. Department of Labor used its authority under OSHA Section 11(c) of the Discrimination against Employees under OSHA Act of 1970 to order Union Pacific Railroad to pay a total of $400,000 in punitive damages, $90,315 in compensatory damages, $34,900 in attorney fees, and more than $90,000 in back wages to three whistleblowers.  Union Pacific had violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by firing and suspending workers for reporting workplace safety concerns and a workplace injury.

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DOL Orders Metro North Railroad to Pay $80,500 in Punitive Damages and Attorney’s Fees to Whistleblower

The U.S. Department of Labor held that Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. retaliated against a whistleblower who reported an injury and filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and ordered Metro North to

  • expunge the whistleblower’s records of any retaliatory reviews,
  • pay $75,000 in punitive damages to the whistleblower,
  • pay $5,500 in attorney’s fees to the whistleblower, and
  • educate its employees about the right to report on-the-job injuries under the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

Metro North, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, unlawfully disciplined the whistleblower following his report to OSHA.  Under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, employees of a railroad carrier and its contractors and subcontractors are protected against retaliation for reporting on-the-job injuries, reporting safety violations, and cooperating with investigations by OSHA.  For more information about the Federal Railroad Safety Act, click here.

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OSHA Orders Utah Transit Authority to Reinstate Whistleblower

OSHA has ordered Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to reinstate a whistleblower and pay more than $130,000 in back wages with interest and attorney’s fees.  According to the complaint, the UTA fired the whistleblower in retaliation for raising security concerns, which violates the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

For more information about the firm’s Whistleblower Law Practice.

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OSHA Finds for Railway Worker Whistleblower, Awards Punitive Damages

On May 20, 2010, OSHA ordered CSX Transportation, Inc. to rescind disciplinary actions and pay a whistleblower $5,000 in punitive damages.  According to OSHA, CSX violated the Federal Rail Safety Act when it disciplined the employee for repeatedly reporting safety concerns to management.

The employment attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm have experience litigating several types of whistleblower claims before the Department of Labor.  To read more about their Railroad Employee Whistleblower Practice, click here.

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OSHA Orders New Jersey Transit to Reinstate Rail Worker, Pay Punitive Damages

On April 6, 2010, OSHA ordered the New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJT) to reinstate a rail worker and pay him over $500,000 for retaliation he suffered as a result of missing work due to a job related illness.  In February 2008, the Complainant witnessed a contractor being electrocuted and burned to death after coming into contact with high voltage lines.  The Complainant fully cooperated in the ensuing investigation and was found not to be involved.  Shortly thereafter, the Complainant reported difficulty sleeping and emotional trauma.  The Complainant was ordered into an employee assistance program (EAP) and was diagnosed with anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.

Upon learning that the Complainant would miss work as a result of his illness, the Superintendent accused the Complainant of manipulating the EAP counselor and malingering.  The Superintendent also launched an investigation, accusing the Complainant of “violating electrical operating instructions.”  Later the Superintendent also stopped the Complainant’s EAP pay.  After approximately six months, the EAP counselor cleared the Complainant to return to work in October 2008.  However, NJT then suspended the Complainant without pay until February 2009 for safety violations.

While in the EAP, the Complainant filed a complaint with OSHA claiming NJT violated the Federal Rail Safety Act.  OSHA found that the temporal proximity between the reported illness and adverse employment actions is sufficient to prove that the NJT retaliated against the Complainant.  As a result, OSHA ordered NJT to reinstate the Complainant and pay him back pay.  He has also been awarded $5,000 for pain and suffering; $50,000 for damage to his credit; and over $350,000 for the loss of his car and home.  NTJ must also pay $75,000 in punitive damages due to “its reckless disregard for the law and complete indifference to the Complainant’s rights.”  The Complainant and NJT have 30 days to object and request a hearing before the Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

For information about The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Railroad Whistleblower Practice, click here.

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OSHA Finds Retaliation in Railroad Whistleblower Case

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered Union Pacific Railroad Company to reassign, reimburse, and pay compensatory damages to a former employee who alleged that he was retaliated against for requesting a lookout while performing work on adjacent railroad tracks.  After investigating the whistleblower complaint, OSHA concluded that Union Pacific violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA) when it eliminated the welder position and forced the employee to increase his daily commute by 131 miles.  The take away point for this case is that the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA prohibit all forms of retaliation, including the elimination of an employment position merely because an employee voices a safety concern.  The Employment Law Group® law firm routinely represents employees in whistleblower retaliation actions.  For more information about the FRSA and The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Transportation Whistleblower Practice, click here.

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OSHA Orders Amtrak to Pay Damages to Railroad Whistleblower

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded back pay, interest and punitive damages to a former Amtrak employee who alleged that she was suspended for reporting a work-related injury to Amtrak.  In her complaint, she also alleged that Amtrak terminated her employment because she filed a complaint with OSHA about Amtrak’s retaliatory suspension of her employment.  This appears to be the first case in which OSHA found for an employee under the whistleblower provision of the Federal Rail Safety Act.  The Employment Law Group® law firm routinely represents employees in whistleblower retaliation actions.  For more information about The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Transportation Whistleblower Practice, click here.

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