BNSF ordered to pay $30k for retaliation
DENVER – Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC retaliated against a Mandan, North Dakota, worker in December 2013 after he reported a work-related injury and submitted a physician’s treatment plan, according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA has ordered Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF to pay more than $30,000 in back wages and damages and to take other corrective action.
The former employee submitted a whistleblower complaint to OSHA alleging violations of the anti-retaliation provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. As a result, OSHA investigated and determined the work-related injury reporting and subsequent treatment plan were contributing factors in terminating the employee, a direct violation of the FRSA.
“Reporting an injury and a subsequent treatment plan ordered by a physician — regardless of an employer’s policy or deadline — is protected activity by law,” said Gregory Baxter, OSHA’s regional administrator in Denver. “BNSF failed to prove that its personnel actions were anything other than retaliation.”
OSHA ordered the employer to reinstate the worker at the same or an equivalent job, restore seniority and benefits, and pay $6,000 in compensatory damages, plus attorney’s fees.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or 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. More information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov/index.html.
BNSF or the former employee may file objections or request a hearing before the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges within 30 days of receiving OSHA’s order.
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.
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.