CSX Transportation Inc. violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act when it suspended an employee at its Selkirk locomotive shop after he notified management of numerous alleged safety hazards and FRSA violations, OSHA has found.
The employee, who was acting in his capacity as a union official, provided the plant superintendent with a letter on Sept. 6, 2013, detailing the alleged violations and the union's intention to withdraw its support of the shop's safety committee because of the violations.
Management issued the employee a five-day suspension on Dec. 18, 2013, for an alleged safety infraction. The employee filed a complaint with OSHA on March 18, 2014. OSHA's investigation found merit in the complaint and has now ordered the Florida-based commercial rail carrier to pay punitive damages and attorney's fees to the worker and take additional corrective action.
"While CSX subsequently reversed the suspension, it was an adverse action that never should have happened in the first place. This worker was clearly doing his duty, alerting management to employees' safety concerns. The company's retaliation needlessly cost him time, money and distress," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "As part of our findings, and in an effort to stop future violations, we are ordering CSX to have its Selkirk managers submit to training about the law and the rights it provides to their employees."
Specifically, the findings order CSX to:
- Pay the employee $27,735 in attorney's fees and $5,000 in punitive damages.
- Expunge the employee's employment records of his suspension and his exercise of his FRSA rights.
- Not retaliate or discriminate against the employee in any manner for his FRSA-related actions.
- Have all managers at CSX's Selkirk facility receive OSHA-provided training on FRSA and the rights it provides their employees.
- Train all new hires on FRSA and employee rights.
- Immediately post in the workplace and electronically a notice to employees of their FRSA rights.
The employee and CSX each have 30 days from receipt of OSHA's findings to file objections and request a hearing before the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.