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What you need to know about whistleblower rights

Railroad workers do a dangerous job. Fortunately, organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have set up regulations to make the industry safer.

Whistleblowers play an important role in enforcing these regulations. Regulatory agencies often rely on whistleblowers to expose unsafe working conditions and practices.

What is whistleblowing for rail workers?

In the railway industry, whistleblowers are usually employees and contractors of railroad companies who call out unsafe and unethical practices. This can include:

  • Reporting hazardous safety conditions
  • Cooperating with a safety or security investigation
  • Giving information to regulatory or law agencies about railroad incidents
  • Filing a complaint with the OSHA's Whistleblower Office

In short, reporting any information about safety misconduct to the proper regulatory agencies can be considered an act of whistleblowing.

What protections are there for whistleblowers?

Though whistleblowers are important for keeping workers safe, railroad companies may not appreciate their actions. Because of this, whistleblowers have legal protection from employer retaliation.

One of the most powerful laws that protect whistleblowers is the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA). This act prevents companies from retaliating against workers who report unsafe practices. Actions that could be considered retaliation can include:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Intimidation
  • Denial of promotions or benefits

If a worker experiences retaliation, they should report the incident to the proper OSHA Whistleblower Office within 180 days. The office will then investigate the incident.

What remedies can the FRSA provide?

Under the FRSA, the OSHA Whistleblower Office can provide remedies for whistleblowers who suffered retaliation. The agency can:

  • Void and expunge employer disciplinary action
  • Reinstate the workers' job, seniority and benefits
  • Pay back lost wages with interest
  • Award compensatory damages
  • Force the company to pay for the worker's attorney fees

In short, the agency will try to ensure that any losses the employee suffered from whistleblowing are negated.

Standing up for workers

Fortunately for railroad workers, there are protections that allow them to play an active role in keeping their work environment safe.

If you believe that your company is not following safety regulations, you have a right to demand safe working conditions. Working with an experienced railroad attorney can help you assert your rights and stand up to unethical practices.

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