Retaliation by the Union Pacific Railroad Company against whistleblowing employees who complained about safety issues is the latest in a series of similar cases involving U.S. railway companies, according to OSHA records.
After three separate OSHA investigations determined that Union Pacific fired and suspended workers for reporting workplace safety concerns and a work-related injury, the company been ordered to pay more than $615,000 in punitive and compensatory damages, back wages and attorney fees to the three employees. OSHA found the company guilty of similar violations in 2010 and 2011.
"Union Pacific Railroad has created a climate of fear instead of a climate of safety," said Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.”
One conductor was terminated and a second suspended without pay after making complaints to the company’s hotline about safety concerns fall and trip hazards, missing and obstructed roadway signs, and various right-of-way issues, rough spots on the track and for noting that a supervisor violated safety procedures during a field test. A locomotive engineer was terminated after reporting a workplace injury in August 2009.
The Omaha-based railroad operates in 23 states and employs more than 40,000 workers.
In another railway-whistleblower case, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company was ordered by OSHA on August 18, 2011 to pay more than $300,000 in back wages, damages and attorney fees to an employee who was suspended without pay after notifying the company of a work-related injury. Although BNSF manager followed the employee to the hospital and received an injury report, the company later accused the employee of failing to furnish adequate information about the injury.
ISHN.com reported on August 11, 2001 that a whistleblower retaliation case involving the Norfolk Southern Railway company uncovered a pattern of intimidating workers from reporting job-related injuries, allowing the company to maintain the appearance an exemplary safety record (http://www.ishn.com/articles/91534-osha-alleges-railway-company-maintained-safety-record-through-chilling-employee-intimidation).