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OSHA ENFORCES THE FEDERAL RAILROAD SAFETY ACT
Recently, OSHA has been coming down hard on Union Pacific’s practice of retaliating against its employees who try to report injuries or make the workplace safer. Union Pacific has been ordered to pay significant fines and damages in several cases for violating the Federal Railroad Safety Act.
OSHA recently ordered Union Pacific to pay $225,000 to an Arizona employee that was fired for turning in a late accident report. The employee was injured when he slipped on ice from a broken refrigerator in a locomotive. He waited 2 months before filing an accident report, to see if his injury would go away. When he went to fill out a traumatic accident personal injury report and go to the doctor, he was fired under Operating Rules 1.6 (“dishonesty”) and 1.2.5 (“reporting”) for filing a late report.
OSHA found that the employee was terminated in retaliation for reporting an injury and therefore he was protected under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The punitive damages of $150,000 and the emotional distress damages of $75,000 that OSHA ordered UP to pay were IN ADDITION to any damages the employee will receive for his personal injury claim under the FELA.
Click here to see the entire decision.
SAFETY HOTLINES – WHISTLE BLOWER PROTECTION
A Kansas City conductor was fired after he made numerous complaints to the Union Pacific’s safety hotline about track safety issues, including fall and trip hazards, missing and obstructed road signs and right-of-way concerns. Union Pacific claimed they were firing him because of an offensive tattoo on his right arm.
OSHA found that Union Pacific fired the conductor because of his hotline complaints, activity that is protected under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. OSHA ordered Union Pacific to reinstate the conductor and to pay him $150,000 in punitive damages, back wages, and pain and suffering.
Click here to see decision.
Click here to see another similar decision where UP was ordered to pay a Kansas City conductor $100,000 in punitive damages for reporting rough track through the safety hotline.
OSHA PROTECTION FOR RAILROAD WORKERS
OSHA is now responsible for enforcing violations of the Federal Railroad Safety Act relating to retaliation against employees for reporting injuries, requesting medical treatment or following medical treatment orders. In addition, railroads may not retaliate against employees who report safety concerns to government agencies or their own employer. Retaliation is not limited to being fired. It can include discipline, making threats, denying overtime or forcing an employee to work against medical advice.
Click here to see OSHA’s Fact Sheet about Whistleblower Protection for Railroad Workers.
FILING OSHA COMPLAINTS
Contact Faerber & Anderson, P.C. if you need help determining whether you have a valid complaint to file with OSHA. Keep in mind the time limit to file a claim is pretty short – it could be as short as 30 days after the alleged adverse action occurred.
Click here for the link to file an OSHA complaint.