Region 10 News Release 10-1200-SEA (10-268)
Sept. 1, 2010
Contact: Jeannine Lupton
Union Pacific Railroad Co. in Eugene, Ore., ordered to pay back wages and
damages to foreman terminated in violation of whistleblower law
SEATTLE - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Union Pacific Railroad Co. in Eugene, Ore., to pay back wages, and compensatory and punitive damages to an employee who was fired after reporting a work-related injury. OSHA found that the railroad fired the individual in violation of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act .
"The Federal Railroad Safety Act expressly forbids railroad companies from disciplining employees for reporting injuries and illnesses, and for following a physician's treatment plan," said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Dean Ikeda in Seattle.
The employee reported a work-related injury. His treatment plan included work restrictions, but the railroad assigned the employee tasks outside the physician's treatment plan, forcing the employee on medical disability leave. The railroad subsequently issued a disciplinary letter and terminated him.
Even after a neutral arbitrator found in the employee's favor and ordered the railroad to reinstate the employee within 30 days of its ruling, the railroad delayed reinstatement for months. During OSHA's investigation, the railroad refused to provide documents, including logs of injuries sustained by employees, claiming they were irrelevant.
In addition to ordering the payment of back wages and damages, OSHA has ordered Union Pacific Railroad Co. to expunge the employee's personnel records of the termination and to post a notice to employees about the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA. OSHA's findings and order become the final order of the secretary of labor unless they are appealed within 30 days.
"This case clearly shows the Labor Department's commitment to ensuring that individuals are provided the protections and relief afforded by the law, and sends a strong message that retaliatory actions will not be tolerated," Ikeda said.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 19 laws protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, workplace safety and health, consumer product safety, health care reform, and financial reform laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, 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 assure 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.
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