Some railroad employees in New Haven and other northeastern cities might have heard that Springfield Terminal Railway Inc. was fined for violating whistleblower laws. The fine is in relation to an accident an employee had at the company's Andover facility.
Workers in New York, Connecticut and the surrounding areas are protected under OSHA whistleblower statutes. This means that employers are generally unable to retaliate against a worker for calling attention to illegal or harassing behavior in the workplace. Examples of protected activities include reporting a hazard on the job, refusing to engage in illegal activity or participating in an investigation. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against can file a complaint with OSHA.
Railroad workers in New York are protected under the National Transit Systems Security Act when they report conduct by their employers that they reasonably believe violate safety laws. They are also protected when they report their employers for committing fraud against the government.
Companies in Connecticut have an obligation to adhere to local, state and federal regulations. If a business is acting in an illegal manner, an employee may choose to speak out about that behavior. In some cases, a person may choose to speak out about the behavior of a specific person within an organization. This is referred to as being a whistleblower.
Connecticut residents who initiate qui tam, or whistleblower, actions may be entitled to a portion of any monetary judgments that are issued. Parties who have been deemed liable according to the False Claims Act are required to pay the federal government triple the monetary damages amount that the government sustained in addition to a penalty. Defendants who were fully cooperative with the investigation conducted by the government and submitted all pertinent information regarding the wrongdoing no later than 30 days of being informed about the wrongdoing will have to pay only two times the amount of damages that were sustained.
Many people living in New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., have become aware of wrongdoing in their workplaces. These individuals often struggle with how to handle this knowledge. Unfortunately, even well-intended people can lose their jobs and, in some cases, their professional reputations after becoming whistleblowers.
Recently, OSHA conducted meetings with representatives of both the trucking and railroad industries. The subject of the meeting was whistleblowing and the issues inherent in the practice. The meeting was attended by company representatives, union officials and industry association representatives. The meeting could affect whistleblowing procedures in the northeastern region of the transportation industry, including New Haven, Connecticut, New York and Washington, D.C.
Fear of retaliation, such as job loss, often prevents workers in Connecticut from coming forward with their concerns about safety or potentially illegal conduct. Despite the personal difficulty that people might feel about coming forward with allegations, 22 different laws establish whistleblower protection in different industries, such as transportation, financial and energy production. An official at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that whistleblowers benefit the public because their testimony can expose harmful practices.
Companies defraud the government by submitting false claims to different government agencies every year, causing the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. In order to combat the problem of fraudulent claims, Congress passed the False Claims Act shortly after the Civil War.
Whistleblowers in Connecticut and the rest of the country can file qui tam actions against an employer if their employers have committed acts of fraud against the government. The reluctance many employees may feel to provide information about acts of fraud tends to hinge on the fear of retaliation that the employers may take against them. However, as whistleblowers, these employees are afforded some legal protections.