OSHA Decision Determines That A Firing In Retaliation For Filing A Whistleblower Claim Is A Serious Violation Of The FRSA
On March 26, 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a decision in a Whistleblower case that requires CSX Transportation to pay punitive damages for dismissing a Railroader for filing a claim under the FRSA that alleged that he had been disciplined for raising various safety issues.
The case involved a dispatcher who was involved in a near miss incident that involved the misrouting of two trains. After the incident, the dispatcher cooperated in a meeting that involved CSXT and the FRA. During that meeting, the dispatcher raised various safety issues that he felt contributed to the near miss incident. The dispatcher was subsequently fired by CSXT. He then, with the approval of CSXT, exercised his seniority rights so that he could return to his previous craft within the Track Department. On his first day back to work as a trackman, he was fired. This was one day after CSXT received notification that he had filed a claim under the FRSA for his dismissal in connection with the near miss incident and its subsequent investigation.
CSXT was ordered to pay punitive damages in the amount of $100,000.00 for its dismissal of the Railroader. The OSHA opinion regarding that award indicated as follows:
“Respondent’s (CSXT) conduct in retaliation against an employee for filing a FRSA complaint with OSHA exhibited reckless disregard for the law and complete indifference to Complainant’s rights and the rights of Respondent’s other employees. Discharging an employee for claiming violations of FRSA functions to chill employees from exercising their most basic rights under FRSA.”
By Matt Darby