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Train systems likely to meet safety deadlines, experts say

According to the American Public Transportation Association, it is likely that the Dec. 31 deadline for installing elements of Positive Train Control safety features will be met. PTC is designed to improve commuter railway safety in New York and throughout the country.

In 2008, Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act. This mandated the use of PTC and set a date of Dec. 31, 2020, for full implementation. The 2018 deadline is for installation of certain types of technology and employee training. The Federal Railroad Administration contacted several commuter rail systems earlier in 2018 because it believed they might not make the deadline. The U.S. Government Accountability Office had similar concerns, according to a report from February. However, the APTA president and CEO claimed all systems should be able to meet the deadline. It is not clear if systems that fail to do so will face punishment.

What is the National Transit Systems Security Act?

Railroad workers in New York are protected under the National Transit Systems Security Act when they report conduct by their employers that they reasonably believe violate safety laws. They are also protected when they report their employers for committing fraud against the government.

According to the law, railways may not discharge or discriminate against workers because they have acted as whistleblowers. If they do engage in retaliatory actions against the workers for reporting them to the government for fraud or safety violations, the employers may be liable to pay substantial damages to the workers.

How to act as a whistleblower

Companies in Connecticut have an obligation to adhere to local, state and federal regulations. If a business is acting in an illegal manner, an employee may choose to speak out about that behavior. In some cases, a person may choose to speak out about the behavior of a specific person within an organization. This is referred to as being a whistleblower.

Those who act in such a capacity are protected by the Lincoln Law as well as the Whistleblower Act of 1989. States may also provide protection to those who speak out against colleagues or employers. The act of whistleblowing has been going on for centuries. The phrase "qui tam", now used to refer to a whistleblower lawsuit, is derived from Latin and was first used in a legal sense in medieval England. Whistleblowing in the United States has occurred since at least 1773.

FELA: How does comparative negligence work?

The railroad industry is inherently dangerous; employees face a higher rate of injury than employees in most other industries in America. You have probably heard of the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) which provides financial support for injured railroad employees, but do you fully understand how it works?

One key concept behind FELA benefits is comparative negligence. This concept determines an injured worker’s eventual recovery of benefits. How could this affect your case?

Cost of safety system for NJ Transit may rise

Amtrak officials say New York tracks may be off limits to NJ Transit commuter trains following a costly and delayed safety system installation. The safety system, which is designed to stop a train operated by a driver who does not obey speed limits or signals, has already cost $320 million and may cost at least $12 million more. Known as Positive Train Control, the system might have prevented a 2016 accident that left one woman dead and over 100 injured when a speeding train hit Hoboken Terminal.

That $12 million price tag is linked to a contract with HNTB Corporation, a consultant that offers technical review along with program management and specialized engineering. However, a spokeswoman for NJ Transit would not say whether that would push the overall cost higher.

Metro-North worker files suit, says he was fired after injury

A former employee of Metro-North Railroad has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the company and his union for wrongful termination. The track foreman claims that he was fired after being injured, and the story should be of interest to railroad workers in New York and Connecticut.

In December of 2013, the foreman requested intermittent leave on account of a serious health condition. The complaint does not detail what the condition is. Metro-North had initially approved the employee's leave, only to fire him less than six months later. His union, Teamsters Local 808, had three years to take his case to arbitration but did nothing.

About qui tam awards

Connecticut residents who initiate qui tam, or whistleblower, actions may be entitled to a portion of any monetary judgments that are issued. Parties who have been deemed liable according to the False Claims Act are required to pay the federal government triple the monetary damages amount that the government sustained in addition to a penalty. Defendants who were fully cooperative with the investigation conducted by the government and submitted all pertinent information regarding the wrongdoing no later than 30 days of being informed about the wrongdoing will have to pay only two times the amount of damages that were sustained.

Defendants who are found liable in qui tam actions will also have to pay a penalty for every false claim that was submitted. The penalty, which is determined by the court, will range from $5,000 to $10,000 for each claim and has to be paid in addition any damages awarded.

The fate of whistleblowers

Many people living in New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., have become aware of wrongdoing in their workplaces. These individuals often struggle with how to handle this knowledge. Unfortunately, even well-intended people can lose their jobs and, in some cases, their professional reputations after becoming whistleblowers.

While most businesses strive to comply with laws and regulations, others do not. In such environments, workers often become aware of violations that are seemingly tolerated and even encouraged by management. Unfortunately, when management and ownership are complicit in illegal or immoral actions, employees who try to do the right thing may suffer retaliation.

OSHA holds meeting concerning whistleblowing

Recently, OSHA conducted meetings with representatives of both the trucking and railroad industries. The subject of the meeting was whistleblowing and the issues inherent in the practice. The meeting was attended by company representatives, union officials and industry association representatives. The meeting could affect whistleblowing procedures in the northeastern region of the transportation industry, including New Haven, Connecticut, New York and Washington, D.C.

Whistleblowing is the reporting of a health or safety issue to a regulatory agency. It may be made by a worker or another individual, often against the wishes of the company. A whistleblower is a normally protected by law for reporting a safety issue. The company cannot normally discharge or otherwise penalize the reporting party.

How can you prove negligence in a FELA claim?

Working in the railroad industry has a higher risk of accident and injury than other industries in the United States. If you were injured on the job, you may face high medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages and emotionally suffer from the trauma of the experience.

The Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA) provides injured railroad workers with the financial support they need after a serious accident. However, to secure FELA benefits, the worker must prove that their employer, another employee or a manufacturer's negligence contributed to their injury. How do you show negligence, and how does this impact your compensation?

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