OSHA has ordered the Union Pacific Railroad Co., headquartered in Omaha, Neb., to immediately reinstate an employee who was terminated in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act for reporting a work-related injury. The company will pay more than $350,000 in back wages with interest, compensatory and punitive damages.
Disciplinary charge used as a “pretext” for retaliation
An OSHA investigation upheld the employee's allegation that the railroad terminated his employment in retaliation for reporting a work-related injury. The employee had more than 30 years of service when he was dismissed from the railroad and twice had received the railroad's World Class Employee Award. It was not until after the employee reported his work-related injury in December 2010 that the railroad charged him with misusing his company vehicle. 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 railroad carrier was ordered to remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and to provide whistle-blower rights information to its employees. Either party in the case can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
Railroad industry tops at generating whistleblowing complaints
The number of complaints OSHA receives under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRSA surpasses the number it receives under any of the other 21 whistle-blower protection statutes it enforces, except for Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. More than 60 percent of the FRSA complaints filed with OSHA involve an allegation that a railroad worker has been retaliated against for reporting an on-the-job injury.