The Union Pacific Railroad has been ordered to reinstate an injured employee and pay the worker more than $85,000 in damages in a clash over an injury on the job.
The ruling follows an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA found that UP was in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act for terminating an employee who had reported a workplace injury in the company’s North Platte terminal.
Union Pacific has been ordered to pay $75,000 in compensatory and $10,000 in punitive damages, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees. The company must also remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record and provide whistleblower rights information to its employees. Back wages were not sought.
“An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report work-related injuries and safety concerns,” said Marcia P. Drumm, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Kansas City. “Whistleblower protections play an important role in keeping workplaces safe. Workers should never be forced to choose between safe work practices and keeping their job.”
The case involved a problem with a chair. The employee said the railroad fired him in retaliation for reporting an injury and for reporting that the chair was allegedly defective. That chair eventually collapsed resulting in a back injury. The incident was reported to a supervisor.
After the employee reported his injuries, the railroad removed him from service and accused him of violating the company’s workplace violence policy and other work-related rules, and subsequently terminated the employee.
OSHA’s investigation found that the railroad terminated the employee in retaliation for having engaged in protected conduct under the FRSA, and that the railroad had engaged in hostility toward the employee for reporting the injury.
Either party in these cases can file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.