An OSHA whistleblower investigation found that New Jersey Transit violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act when it retaliated against an employee for reporting a work-related illness, according to an agency press release.
According to OSHA's findings, in February 2008, the railroad brought an employee up on charges for missing work after suffering a work-related illness from witnessing a fatal accident involving another worker. The railroad also retaliated against the worker by cutting his pay and then suspending him. These retaliatory acts caused the employee significant financial and personal losses. The employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, alleging that the railroad had retaliated against him for reporting his work-related illness. OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program conducted an investigation under the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA, found merit to the complaint and ordered relief.
"Railroad employees have the legal right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "This case sends a clear message: Railroads that retaliate against employees for exercising their rights will be held accountable."
As a result of its findings, OSHA has ordered New Jersey Transit to take corrective actions, including expunging disciplinary actions taken against the employee and references to them from various records as well as compensating the worker for back pay, lost benefit payments, interest, compensatory damages and attorneys' fees totaling almost $500,000. In addition, OSHA has ordered the railroad to pay the complainant $75,000 in punitive damages. The railroad must also post and provide its employees with information on their FRSA whistleblower rights.