Region 7 News Release 10-625-KAN
June 15, 2010
Contact: Rich Kulczewski
Iowa-based railroad ordered by US Department of Labor to make
amends to employee censured for reporting work-related injury
Iowa Interstate Railroad violated Federal Rail Safety Act
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered the Iowa Interstate Railroad, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, to make amends for censuring a train conductor who was disciplined in reprisal for reporting a workplace injury.
Iowa Interstate Railroad issued an employee a notification of formal investigation in January 2009 in reprisal for reporting a work injury and also retaliated against the employee by disciplining him in the form of a letter of censure. The employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, alleging that the railroad had retaliated against him for reporting his work injury. OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program conducted an investigation under the Federal Rail Safety Act, found merit to the complaint and ordered relief.
"An employer does not have the right to retaliate against its employees who report work-related injuries," said Michael G. Connors, OSHA regional administrator in Chicago. "While OSHA is best known for ensuring the safety and health of employees, it is also a federal government whistleblower protection agency."
OSHA has ordered IIR to cease and desist automatic issuance of a notice of investigation for employees who report work injuries without reasonable suspicion that a hearing will uncover evidence of a policy violation or misconduct. OSHA also has ordered IIR to take corrective actions by expunging all files and computerized data systems of references to the disciplinary hearing involving the employee, as well as those of references related to the letter of censure.
Additionally, OSHA has ordered the railroad to pay the employee $1,000 in punitive damages, to post and provide its employees with information on their FRSA whistleblower rights and within 30 days inform the OSHA regional administrator in writing of the steps it has taken to comply with the above order.
IIR and the complainant 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 and illnesses, as well as 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 16 other laws protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws; trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, workplace safety and health regulations; and consumer product safety laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at: http://www.whistleblowers.gov/index.html.
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.
Note: The U.S. Labor Department does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/compliance.