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Blog Author Angelique Sanders

Weekly safety news. Stay in touch with regulations from OSHA, NFPA, and other safety codes. Find out about other companies' best and worst practices. We scour the internet to provide you with helpful training resources and the latest safety information.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

OSHA Orders Union Pacific Railroad To Reinstate And Pay $300,000 To Terminated Employee

OSHA has ordered Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad Co. to immediately reinstate an employee in Idaho who was terminated after reporting a work-related injury. OSHA also has ordered the company to pay the employee more than $300,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages.

The following is from an OSHA press release. A statement from Union Pacific follows the OSHA statement.

The employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, alleging suspension without pay and then termination 23 days after notifying the company of an on-the-job injury. OSHA's investigation found reasonable cause to believe that the disciplinary charges and termination were not based on the complainant breaking a work rule but on the complainant reporting an injury to the railroad, in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act's whistleblower protection provisions. Union Pacific Railroad Co. was found to have similarly violated the FRSA in four other cases elsewhere in the U.S. since 2009.

"This case sends a clear message that OSHA will not tolerate retaliation against workers for reporting a work-related injury. An unreported injury is an uninvestigated injury. Nothing is learned that can help prevent the next injury," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "The safety of all workers is endangered when employers intimidate injured workers so that they do not report injuries."

The following is a statement  from Union Pacific:

Union Pacific Response to OSHA's Whistleblower Claims

In recent days, Union Pacific was assessed fines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for alleged whistleblower violations. OSHA added inaccurate comments about Union Pacific's safety programs that require response.

Union Pacific's very successful and heavily promoted core safety program, Total Safety Culture, is based on continuous reporting and resolution of safety concerns. OSHA's assertion that Union Pacific would undermine this successful program, which has reduced injuries to the lowest level in Union Pacific history, by retaliating against employees who participate, is simply not true.

In one of the cases for which Union Pacific received an enormous penalty, OSHA claims the employee was dismissed for making safety complaints. In reality, the dismissed employee had insisted on wearing a body decoration containing a well-known term of profanity and a death threat. He refused a simple request to cover his decoration while on duty. Union Pacific is entitled to restrict this misconduct.

In another case, the employee ignored a required procedure for reporting a track safety issue. The employee was issued minimal discipline under the terms of his Collective Bargaining Agreement, an agreement negotiated on his behalf by his union.

In the third case, the employee waited two months to report an on-the-job injury. Union Pacific has an obligation to the Federal Railroad Administration to report injuries immediately. More importantly, immediate reporting is necessary so that the safety issue can be addressed to prevent injuries to other employees.

Union Pacific is appealing these decisions to an Administrative Law Judge, requesting a full and fair trial. Union Pacific will be entitled to present all of its evidence, which will demonstrate that its actions were both legal and appropriate.

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posted by Steve Hudgik
View This Post - (4 Comments)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whistleblowers need to be protected but osha has been going overboard the employer is never right.

6:11 AM  
Blogger SteelFabCorp said...

Someone needs to bring OSHA under control.

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The railroads are the most corrupt
organization in America! Not even the government can stop them from
mischief. They just pay the fines
and keep rolling on. Most of the
employees lives from paycheck to
paycheck and live in fear of the union bosses and the bully managers!

5:02 PM  
Blogger Steve Hudgik said...

Anonymous, thank you for your comment.

Where are you getting your information from? According to the BLS, for the low end, entry level jobs the median pay is $22/hr. That's pretty good. The mean wage for conductors is $27 and Locomotive engineers $25, with those with the most experience making $80,000/yr. That's not living from pay check to pay check, unless you're throwing away your pay.

So what are the facts that back up your claims?

7:43 AM  

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