Some railroad employees in New Haven and other northeastern cities might have heard that Springfield Terminal Railway Inc. was fined for violating whistleblower laws. The fine is in relation to an accident an employee had at the company's Andover facility.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the employee had to attend an investigative hearing the following day. There was a possibility the employee would be disciplined or terminated.
OSHA conducted an investigation and found that the Federal Railroad Safety Act had been violated. Among other things, the act protects whistleblowers. The company will be required to pay the employee for attorney fees along with $75,000 in punitive damages and $10,000 in compensatory damages. It is also required to remove anything about the hearing and the injury from the employee's record. Employees and managers will be retrained on procedures for reporting injury. According to an OSHA administrator, the decision reinforces the agency's commitment to protection of employees.
Protection for whistleblowers in industries such as railroads is critical because the safety of so many people is at stake. Many employees may be unaware of their rights under the FRSA. Those who believe those rights are being violated or who are unsure of their rights regarding whistleblowing, injury or retaliation might want to contact an attorney. An attorney may be able to review those rights as well as explain to the employee how to proceed. The first step may be for the employee to make an effort to resolve the situation in the workplace. If that is unsuccessful, then there might be an OSHA investigation. Employees should be aware that their time to file a claim with OSHA following a violation is limited.
Source: Mass Live, "Springfield Terminal Railway ordered to pay $85,000 for violations of whistleblower provisions," Michelle Williams, 10/22/2018