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Railroad whistleblower rights within Federal Rail Safety Act

Federal law protects railroad workers in Connecticut, as in other places around the country, from retaliation when they express their concerns about their workplaces. Their protected activities include reporting accidents, injuries, safety problems, obstruction of medical treatment or fraud involving their employers. Once workers file a complaint as a whistleblower, as allowed by the Federal Rail Safety Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration assigns an investigator to the case.

To determine whether a person qualifies for whistleblower protection, the investigator collects evidence from co-workers, managers and other witnesses. The investigator will also seek a written reply from the employer about the situation. OSHA will eventually issue a finding about the case that either affirms or denies whistleblower status. A finding in favor of the employee could lead to a settlement that resolves the person's financial damages.

An employer could object to the finding within 30 days. Likewise, a worker could challenge the finding during the same time period. If either party disputes the finding, the case advances to a de novo evidentiary hearing, where an administrative law judge makes a decision. Either party also has the right to appeal the judge's ruling and take the case to an Administrative Review Board. Such cases could also result in filing an FRSA complaint in federal court if OSHA does not produce a finding within 210 days.

As with most cases involving a whistleblower, an individual will be pitted against a large company. The representation of an attorney who is knowledgeable about the FRSA could improve a person's ability to navigate the process. A lawyer could inform the investigator or administrative law judge about the employee's rights and version of events. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, an attorney could manage court filings, jury selection and the presentation of evidence.

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