People sometimes describe the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) as workers’ compensation for railroad employees. However, there are some differences between the state-mandated workers’ comp and the benefits provided to railway employees under FELA.
An important one is that to get traditional workers’ comp benefits, employees typically don’t have to prove that their employer was at fault for their injury. Under FELA, however, a worker does need to show that their employer’s negligence played a role in causing their injuries.
That role, however, doesn’t have to be significant. Injured railroad workers have what’s called a “featherweight” burden of proof. That means they only need to show that their employer’s negligence played some role – no matter how small – in their injuries.
Employer responsibilities under FELA
Under FELA, employers are responsible for providing a reasonably safe work environment for their workers. Specifically, they have a duty to:
- Keep the workplace as free as possible of safety hazards and other unsafe conditions. This includes regular inspections and providing necessary warnings.
- Provide employees with the necessary training, supervision and equipment to do their jobs safely and to ensure that the workplace is in compliance with government-mandated as well as employer-specific safety rules and regulations.
- Not to have unreasonable work quotas for employees or require them to do tasks alone that exceed their physical ability
These are just a few of the key employer duties detailed under FELA for railroads and other employers covered under the law. Those duties are essential to understand if you’ve been injured on the job.
If you’re having difficulty getting the benefits you need after filing a FELA claim or if you simply have questions about your rights under that law, it may be wise to talk with an experienced attorney who knows this unique industry and the laws around it.