OSHA has ordered the Union Pacific Railroad Co., headquartered in Omaha, Neb., to immediately reinstate an employee to his former position with the same pay and benefits, and to pay the employee more than $200,000, representing back wages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages.
An OSHA investigation upheld the employee's allegation that the railroad terminated his employment in retaliation for reporting a work-related injury. The railroad charged the injured employee with the most severe form of discipline under its progressive discipline policy even though the investigation found that he was not at fault. The employee was subsequently dismissed from service on a pretext, according to the agency.
"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. "While OSHA is best known for ensuring the safety and health of employees, it is also a whistleblower protection agency."
The railroad carrier was further ordered to provide whistleblower rights information to its employees. Either party in the case can file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA conducted the investigation under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, as amended by the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. Railroad carriers are subject to the provisions of the FRSA, which protects employees who report violations of any federal law, rule or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or who engage in other activities protected by the act.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 20 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, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. Under these laws enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.