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Region 1 News Release: 10-1606-BOS/BOS 2011-009
Jan. 5, 2011
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: 617-565-2074
E-mail: fitzgerald.edmund@dol.gov

Investigation finds Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. retaliated against
Connecticut employee who reported injury, filed whistleblower complaint
US Labor Department's OSHA orders railroad to pay $80,500 in punitive damages and fees

BOSTON – A whistleblower investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found that the Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. brought disciplinary charges against an employee in the railroad's New Haven, Conn., rail yard who filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. OSHA has ordered the railroad, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, to take corrective action and pay the worker $80,500 in punitive damages and attorney's fees.

"Taking repeated disciplinary action against an employee who exercised his legal right to report an on-the-job injury and voiced a complaint about retaliatory treatment by his employer is unconscionable," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator, located in Boston. "Such treatment instills a culture of silence in which hazardous conditions are masked because employees will be fearful of reporting them."

The employee faced disciplinary action from Metro North after he filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA in November 2008 that alleged retaliation related to his earlier reporting of a workplace injury. OSHA's investigation, conducted under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, found merit to the complaint.

As a result, OSHA has ordered Metro North to take corrective actions, including expunging disciplinary actions and references to the worker from various records, reimbursing the worker a total of $5,500 in attorney's fees and paying him punitive damages in the amount of $75,000. In addition, the railroad must provide its employees with information about their whistleblower rights and their right to report on-the-job injuries.

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 Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which prohibits discharge and other retaliation against employees for filing a safety or health complaint, and for exercising a wide range of other rights afforded to them by the act. OSHA also enforces the whistleblower provisions of 19 other statutes protecting workers who report violations of various trucking, railway, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, securities, public transportation, consumer product and maritime safety laws. Detailed 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 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.

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 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.


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