June 27, 2012 — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will force Norfolk Southern Railway Co. to pay $802,168.70 in damages for illegally firing three injured railroad workers who filed injury reports. The company has also been ordered to clear the employees’ disciplinary records, and post notices to inform other employees about their right to file a railroad injury lawsuit.
Investigators found evidence that employees who reported injuries were investigated by the railroad, and subsequently fired.
In one case, a laborer filed an injury report after being hit by the company’s gang truck in 2009. There were four other employees involved in the accident, but the laborer was the only one who was injured. The railroad accused him of improper performance of duties, and terminated him. OSHA ordered the railroad to pay him more than $310,000 in damages.
In the second case, an engineer tripped and fell in a locomotive restroom, and filed an injury report. The railroad investigated his case, accused the engineer of falsifying his injury report, and fired him. OSHA found that the investigation was biased to terminate the engineer, and Norfolk was forced to pay more than $200,000 in damages.
In the third case, a railroad conductor said that he fainted and hit his head while returning from the restroom, and filed an injury report report. When the railroad investigated, they found that he had falsified his report, and fired him. The previous day, the conductor had received an excellent performance review for never losing time due to a work-related injury in his 35-year career. OSHA ordered Norfolk to pay him about $175,000 in damages.
OSHA investigators are concerned about an ongoing evidence that Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has punished employees who have reported work-related injuries. It is illegal to fire an employee for reporting an injury. Other employees could be discouraged from reporting their injuries for fear of losing their job. When an injury is not reported, the cause of the injury is never investigated. Whistleblower laws protect employees in many industries from retaliation when they report violations of the law.
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