DuraLabel's Weekly Safety News

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.

Monday, December 03, 2012

OSHA Finds Railroad Violated Whistleblower Provisions Again

Railroad employee in Georgia to receive compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees

OSHA has found Norfolk Southern Railway Co. violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act and ordered the company to  pay more than $288,000, including back pay, interest, mental anguish, punitive damages and reasonable attorney's fees. This action  follows several other orders issued by OSHA against Norfolk Southern Railway Co. in the past two years. Investigations have found that the company continues to retaliate against workers for reporting work-related injuries, effectively created a chilling effect within the railroad industry.

Additionally, the company has been ordered to expunge the disciplinary record of the employee as well as post a notice regarding employees' whistleblower protection rights under the FRSA and provide training to its employees about these rights.

On Sept. 19, 2009, the employee had to use additional force to move a switch so that a train could go from one set of tracks to another. On Sept. 21, 2009, while off-duty, he felt a sharp pain in his lower back while getting up from his chair and immediately reported the injury to his supervisor. A few days later, the railroad removed the employee from  service, scheduled an investigative hearing, and charged him with falsifying an injury, providing conflicting information relative to the injury and late reporting of the injury. He was terminated on Nov. 5, 2009. An OSHA investigation revealed that the employee was retaliated against for reporting a workplace injury and following the company's
reporting policy.

On March 30, 2010, under duress by the railroad, the employee signed a leniency waiver. He was returned to service nearly six months later, on Sept. 20, 2010.

OSHA found that the company's investigative hearing was severely flawed and intentionally designed to support its decision to terminate the worker. Moreover, OSHA's investigation revealed callousness in the steps  the railroad took to retaliate against this employee, including the coercion into admitting wrongdoing when the record shows that the employee was simply following company policy.

In this case, OSHA is ordering the railroad to pay the worker $150,000 in punitive damages; $125,000 for mental anguish, pain and suffering; $10,550 in back pay and costs associated with purchasing back lost retirement benefits; and $3,150 in attorney's fees. Either party to the
case can file an appeal to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.

Norfolk Southern Railway Co. is a major transporter/hauler of coal and other commodities serving every major container port in the eastern United States with connections to western carriers. Its headquarters are  in Norfolk, Va., with more than 30,000 union employees.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental,
rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.

Related Past Posts:
OSHA Orders $1,240,000 in penalties
Employee's Hard Hat Hits Support Beam - $300,000 in Penalties
Northfolk Souther Railway Ordered To Pay $800,000

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posted by Steve Hudgik
View This Post - (1 Comments)


Blogger Jamie Salcedo said...

It's always great to see an injured worker get the comp they deserve, especially when a company uses sketchy tactics like this. I remember this story my friend told me of how his old company tried to blame his chemical trailer on a spill, when it was really the company using bad containers. Thanks for the article!

8:09 AM  

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