Grand Trunk Western Railway Co. ordered to pay back wages to suspended,
injured employee following investigation by US Labor Department's OSHA
FERNDALE, Mich. – Grand Trunk Western Railway Co. violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act when a carman was suspended following a workplace injury, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced today. The employee was seriously injured by a 20-foot section of crane chain while changing defective railcar wheels in the company's Ferndale rail yard. OSHA has ordered the company to pay $137,618 in back pay, along with interest, punitive and compensatory damages and attorney's fees.
"For an employer to place blame on an employee who got injured on the job while following the instructions of his supervisors is unjust," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "When employees are disciplined for injuries and the reporting of safety concerns, worker safety becomes a serious concern."
An OSHA investigation upheld the 23-year Grand Trunk Western Railway Co. employee's allegation that the railroad issued him a 90-day suspension after the employee was struck and injured by the crane chain. Following his injury, Grand Trunk Railway Co.'s internal investigation determined the worker had violated company safety protocol, leading to his injury, and issued the carman a 90-day suspension from service. The carman returned to work after 53 lost days.
OSHA's investigation found that the employee had been directed by the mechanical supervisor to change the defective tires in a manner which violated company safety protocols, and that the employer used the injury as a pretext to suspend the employee.
The railroad carrier has been ordered to remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and to provide whistleblower rights information to its employees. Grand Trunk Railway Co. will also pay a total of $137,618, which includes $5,242 in lost wages and $125,490 in punitive and compensatory damages.
Either party in the case can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
On July 16, 2012, OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration signed a memorandum of agreement to facilitate coordination and cooperation for enforcing the FRSA's whistleblower provisions. Between August 2007, when OSHA was assigned responsibility for whistle-blower complaints under the FRSA, and September 2012, OSHA has received more than 1,200 FRSA whistleblower complaints. More than 60 percent of the FRSA complaints filed with OSHA involve an allegation that a railroad worker has been retaliated against for reporting an on-the-job injury.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 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, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.
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 to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistle-blower rights, including fact sheets, is available 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.
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Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistle-blower complaints.
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.