Region 7 News Release: 11-450-KAN
April 8, 2011
Contact: Rich Kulczewski
US Labor Department orders Union Pacific Railroad to reinstate and
compensate employee disciplined for reporting work-related injury
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered the Union Pacific Railroad Co., headquartered in Omaha, Neb., to immediately reinstate an employee to his former position with the same pay and benefits, and to pay the employee more than $200,000, representing back wages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages.
An OSHA investigation upheld the employee's allegation that the railroad terminated his employment in retaliation for reporting a work-related injury. The railroad charged the injured employee with the most severe form of discipline under its progressive discipline policy even though the investigation found that he was not at fault. The employee was subsequently dismissed from service on a pretext.
"An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report work-related injuries," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. "While OSHA is best known for ensuring the safety and health of employees, it is also a whistleblower protection agency."
The railroad carrier was further ordered to provide whistleblower rights information to its employees. Either party in the case can file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA conducted the investigation under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, as amended by the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. Railroad carriers are subject to the provisions of the FRSA, which protects employees who report violations of any federal law, rule or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or who engage in other activities protected by the act.
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 to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. 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 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.
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.