Once again Norfolk Southern has been found to be in violation of the whistleblower protection provisions of this FRSA. This is starting to sound like a stuck record (for those of you who remember records).
On August 28, 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a news release indicating that it had ordered Norfolk Southern Railway Company to pay two Railroaders $932,070.46 in damages, including $387,813.75 in punitive damages.
Railroader No. 1 suffered an on-the-job shoulder injury that he reported to the Railroad. As usual, Norfolk Southern alleged that he had filed a false injury report and he was fired. He was subsequently reinstated by the special Board of Adjustments. OSHA ordered Norfolk Southern to pay the Railroader $581,438.00, including compensatory damages for pain and suffering, $150,000.00 in punitive damages, $55,000.00 in attorney’s fees and $26,438.11 in back wages and benefits. Importantly, OSHA ordered Norfolk Southern to reinstate the Railroader to his proper seniority level.
Railroader No. 2 also suffered an on-the-job injury that he reported to the Railroad. He, like Railroader No. 1, was charged with making a false statement regarding his injuries. He was also subsequently discharged. The news release indicates that during the OSHA investigation it was determined that the Railroader’s injuries were not only real, but they have “caused severe medical problems involving his back, neck and shoulders, which restrict his ability to sit, stand, walk and operated machinery.” OSHA ordered Norfolk Southern to reinstate the Railroader once he is medically released to return to work. Norfolk Southern was also ordered to pay damages in the amount $350,632.35, including $150,000.00 in compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amount of $150,000.00. Attorney’s fees and medical expenses were also awarded.
Dr. David Michaels, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, was quoted as saying “Firing workers for reporting an injury is not only illegal, it endangers other workers. When workers are discouraged from reporting injuries, no investigation into the cause of an injury or possible future prevention can occur” and “Railroad workers must be able to report work-related injuries without fear of retaliation. The Labor Department’s responsibility is to protect all employees, including those in the railroad industry, from retaliation for exercising these basis worker rights. Employers who break the law will be held accountable.” So far, OSHA, at least with regard to Norfolk Southern, has been true to its word.
OSHA’s press release can be found here.
A link to a news article in the Virginian-Pilot is here.
By Matt Darby