Region 1 News Release: 11-467-BOS/BOS 2011-285
Aug. 10, 2011
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
US Labor Department's OSHA orders Metro North Commuter Railroad
to promote and pay more than $141,000 to worker who reported injury
Largest amount of punitive damages ordered by OSHA under Federal Railroad Safety Act
BOSTON – An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found that the Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. discriminated against an employee by classifying his on-the-job injury as not being work-related and denying him a promotion.
OSHA has ordered the railroad, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, to take corrective action by promoting the worker and paying him $125,000 in punitive damages, $5,000 in compensatory damages and $11,651 in legal and medical expenses. The railroad also must pay him the difference between his current rate of pay and that of the new position, plus interest, and correct its records to show his injury as work-related. Additionally, Metro North must post a notice to employees at all 120 of its stations of their protections under the Federal Railroad Safety Act as well as provide all employees with an FRSA fact sheet and information on reporting work-related injuries and illnesses.
"Metro North's policies and actions knowingly violate the employee protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act and may deter employees from reporting on-the-job injuries for fear of financial or career consequences," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator in Boston. "The railroad's blatant disregard for its employees' rights and its refusal to cooperate with our investigation warrant these significant punitive damages, which are the highest ordered to date by OSHA in a FRSA-related discrimination investigation."
The worker filed a complaint with OSHA in October 2008 after Metro North classified his July 2008 injury as not work-related even though it occurred on the job, which forced him to pay out of pocket for injury-related medical expenses. Metro North notified the worker in November 2008 that he was not selected for a promotion for which he had previously applied. That decision was based in part on the worker's injury record, which should not have been considered in evaluating the promotion request. OSHA's investigation determined that both the injury misclassification and the promotion denial constituted discrimination against the worker.
Metro North and the complainant each have 30 days from receipt of the findings to file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. Under the FRSA, employees of a railroad carrier and its contractors and subcontractors are protected against retaliation for reporting on-the-job injuries, reporting certain safety and security violations, and cooperating with investigations by OSHA and other regulatory agencies.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. Under these laws, enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed employee rights information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
Editor's note: The Labor Department does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.