It takes a lot of courage to blow the whistle on the company you work for. If you look at the fate of two of the U.S.’s most famous whistleblowers, you might decide to stay quiet. Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in jail for whistleblowing on American war crimes in Iraq. Edward Snowden is currently in exile after exposing the CIA for spying on U.S. citizens.
As a railroad employee, you may see something happening in your company that is unsafe or illegal. If everyone is too afraid to speak up, it puts lives at risk. Whistleblowing will never make you popular. Colleagues and bosses may call you a traitor or troublemaker. You may find yourself eating lunch alone, or you may even get fired.
These things still happen, despite being illegal. The Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA) prohibits any form of retaliation against whistleblowers. While the law will discourage some colleagues or employers, it will never wipe out such behavior entirely. Fortunately, it can be upheld retrospectively.
Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ordered train freight company CSX Transportation Inc. to reinstate a worker they had fired for whistleblowing. He had reported an unsafe gate and an injury that occurred on the site. OSHA fined CSX and ordered them to pay the worker damages and back pay as well as giving him his job back.
OSHA made one additional demand of CSX. It said they must train their managers about the FRSA to avoid a similar situation happening again. While the law has been in place for years, not everyone in the railroad industry understands it, or wants to. If you have any questions about whistleblowing procedures or the FRSA, seek legal advice.