A past employee from the Norfolk Southern Railway Company will be paid $122,199 in punitive and compensatory damages plus reasonable lawyer’s fees, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced. The company infringed on the worker’s rights in a whistleblower case. The government contends the company violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by firing the worker for disclosing an injury that occurred while at work in 2009.
Our North Carolina Federal Railroad Safety Act attorneys recently posted to our North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog about recent changes to OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
The worker was originally hurt in Jamestown, North Carolina in May of 2009. His injury occurred when he was trying to take out a spike on the rail line. Afraid of losing his job, the employee didn’t report his injury. Then in October he was re-injured and management suggested he see a doctor. Following the worker’s return to work, he received a suspension and was later fired because he allegedly falsified the injury. After his termination the worker sent a grievance to OSHA. An investigation by the agency concluded that the worker’s rights were violated under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) and the company was successful in intimidating other workers from disclosing at work injuries. These practices enabled Norfolk Southern Railway Company to continue the look of having an excellent safety record. This continued their 22 years in a row streak of receiving the E.H.Harriman Gold Medal Rail Safety Award.
The decision by OSHA gave the previous worker, who currently lives in Greensboro, damages for suffering and pain and lawyer’s fees that were deemed reasonable. Due to the company’s disregard to the worker’s rights under FRSA, $75,000 was awarded to the victim in this case. An appeal can be filed by either party to the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges. The company was also told to delete the disciplinary documentation of the worker. Also, notices will be posted for all to see about the whistleblower protection rights under the FRSA.
Located in Norfolk Virginia, the Norfolk Southern Railway Company is a significant transporter of coal and merchandise traveling to container ports in eastern states. The company has 30,000+ union workers.
The Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. Section 20109 defends railroad workers who work in certain “protected activities” related to foreign or interstate commerce, subcontractors or contractors of railroad carriers, and officers and/or workers of railroad carriers. The FRSA forbids firing, demoting, suspending, disciplining, reprimanding, intimidating, denying promotion and/or benefits or any form of discrimination or retaliation against any worker working in certain “protected activity.” It also bans delaying or obstructing an injured railroad worker’s medical care.
Examples of a worker performing a “protected activity” include:
-Reports a work related illness or injury pertaining to them or a co-worker.
-Gives information about any railroad accident or injury.
-Reports a violation of a federal rule, law or regulation associated with railroad security or safety.
-Reports a gross waste, fraud or abuse of public funds meant for use in transportation security or safety.
-Declines to violate or help to violate a federal regulation, law or rule pertaining to railroad security or safety.
-Won’t work where hazardous security or safety conditions exist.
-Refuses to allow the using of unsafe railroad track, equipment or structures.
-Cooperates with Homeland Security, NTSB or FRA by testifying about a security or safety investigation.
To find out more about whistleblower rights visit OSHA’s website.
If you or a family member has suffered a serious work place injury in North Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices, P.A. today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.
More Blog Entries:
New Bill Brings Complex Changes to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 10, 2011
Fear of Losing a Job Can Silence North Carolina Workers Injured at Work, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 4, 2011