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RR to Pay $350K for Worker ‘Retaliation’

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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The Union Pacific Railroad has been ordered to reinstate an award-winning 30-year employee who was accused of wrongdoing and summarily fired after he reported an on-the-job injury.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the Omaha, NE-based railway—the largest railroad in North America—had terminated the employee "in retaliation for reporting a work-related injury."

The employee had been with the railroad for more than 30 years and had twice received its World Class Employee Award. In December 2010, he reported a work-related injury to the company. The railroad soon charged him with misusing his company vehicle and terminated him, according to OSHA.

Union Pacific Railroad
Photos: Union Pacific Railroad

Union Pacific is the largest railroad in North America. Railroads are generating more whistleblower complaints than any other U.S. industry. In many cases, OSHA says, workers allege firing after reporting on-the-job injuries.

"OSHA's investigation found that this charge was used as a pretext to retaliate against the employee for reporting his injury, and that the employee's explanations as to his use of the company vehicle were reasonable and consistent with his job duties," the agency reported.

Union Pacific disputes the allegations. "We disagree with the agency's findings and plan to appeal the decision," company spokesman Mark Davis said in an email.

$350K Settlement

OSHA ordered the railroad to pay more than $350,000 in back wages with interest, compensatory and punitive damages for violating the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

The railroad carrier was also ordered to remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and to provide whistleblower rights information to its employees. Either party in the case may appeal the decision.

"An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report work-related injuries," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City.

"When workers can't report safety concerns on the job without fear of retaliation, worker safety and health suffer, which costs working families and businesses alike."

Railroad Crackdown

This is the second six-figure settlement that OSHA has announced in one week in defense of railroad workers who were fired after reporting injuries on the job.

Last week, the agency announced a $1.1 million settlement for three workers of Norfolk Southern Railway who were terminated after they were injured on the job.

Union Pacific switchman - WWII

Union Pacific Railroad has its roots in the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, signed by President Lincoln. The railroad's World War II workers included this switchman.

The stepped-up enforcement follows a memorandum of agreement signed last summer between OSHA and the Federal Railroad Administration. The agreement was aimed at improving interagency cooperation to better enforce the FRSA's whistleblower provisions.

The Federal Railroad Safety Act protects employees who report violations of any federal law, rule or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or who engage in other protected activities.

OSHA receives more whistleblower complaints from railroad employees than from any of the 20-plus other industries it regulates, including the nuclear, pipeline and maritime sectors. The agency took over whistleblower jurisdiction of the Railroad Safety Act in August 2007. In the next five years, it received more than 1,200 whistleblower complaints under that law.

   

Tagged categories: Enforcement; Federal Railroad Administration; Health and safety; OSHA; Rail; Workers

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