The Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA) prohibits retaliation against railroad workers who report safety violations. However, a former engineer with Norfolk Southern says he and his crew were harassed and subjected to extra scrutiny and new timetables before he was eventually fired. He filed a federal claim with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against the railroad earlier this month.
The man worked at the railroad’s Conway Yard in Pennsylvania. He says that he made over 40 complaints over the course of four months in 2019 and 2020 to two managers at the yard about safety violations in locomotives that were carrying hazardous materials.
Claim: Staying on schedule was more important than safety
According to his complaint, his bosses did nothing about the risks he reported because that would have meant removing the trains from service and disrupting the schedule. Further, he claims he was once told that getting the trains out of the yard on time took precedence over inspections.
The former engineer alleges that in March of last year, one of his bosses deliberately blocked a train from leaving on time so that they had an excuse to take disciplinary action against him. He says that other accusations against him were a “subterfuge” to retaliate against him for his safety violation reports. He was fired the following month. He is seeking reinstatement to his job, back pay, expungement of the disciplinary actions brought against and compensatory damages.
Retaliation can involve myriad actions
Retaliation doesn’t have to involve firing. According to OSHA, under the FRSA, retaliation can include intimidation and threats, reduction in pay or hours, denial of a promotion, delay or denial of first aid for an on-the-job injury and more.
Whistleblowers have and continue to be crucial to public safety. However, it’s not an easy task to take on. Having an experienced attorney at your side from the beginning – especially if you suffer retaliation for reporting safety issues – can help you immeasurably.