Posts Tagged ‘whistleblower’

OSHA establishes plan to keep workers safe from COVID-19

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced an interim enforcement response plan for the coronavirus pandemic. The response plan provides instructions and guidance to OSHA area offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling coronavirus-related complaints, referrals and severe illness reports.

During the coronavirus outbreak, OSHA area offices will utilize their inspection resources to fulfill mission essential functions and protect workers exposed to the disease. The response plan contains interim procedures that allow flexibility and discretion for field offices to maximize OSHA’s impact in securing safe workplaces in this evolving environment.

“OSHA is committed to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers during this challenging time in our nation’s history,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt said. “Today’s guidance outlines commonsense procedures for investigating complaints related to the coronavirus, while also ensuring the safety of workers, employers and inspectors.”

The response plan outlines procedures for addressing reports of workplace hazards related to the coronavirus. Fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to the coronavirus will be prioritized for on-site inspections. The response plan contains procedures and sample documentation for CSHOs to use during coronavirus-related inspections. Workers requesting inspections, complaining of coronavirus exposure or reporting illnesses may be protected under one or more whistleblower statutes and will be informed of their protections from retaliation.

This memorandum will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. It is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis. Check OSHA’s webpage at www.osha.gov/coronavirus frequently for updates.

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 help 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 www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment and assure work-related benefits and rights.

DOL warns employers against retaliation for workers who report unsafe conditions during pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers that it is illegal to retaliate against workers because they report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. Acts of retaliation can include terminations, demotions, denials of overtime or promotion or reductions in pay or hours.

“Employees have the right to safe and healthy workplaces,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt. “Any worker who believes that their employer is retaliating against them for reporting unsafe working conditions should contact OSHA immediately.”

Workers have the right to file a whistleblower complaint online with OSHA (or 1-800-321-OSHA) if they believe their employer has retaliated against them for exercising their rights under the whistleblower protection laws enforced by the agency.

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program webpage provides valuable resources on worker rights, including fact sheets on whistleblower protections for employees in various industries and frequently asked questions.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities and tax laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.

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 help 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 www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

OSHA finds BNSF retaliated against worker, orders railroad to pay back wages

BNSF Railway to pay more than $147K in back wages, damages to former employee

DENVER – An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found that BNSF Railway Company violated federal law when it terminated a track inspector for insubordination after the employee reported railroad track defects to management.

OSHA has ordered BNSF to pay more than $147,000 in back wages and damages and take other corrective actions. Agency investigators determined the company retaliated against the former employee in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. A Berkshire Hathaway company, BNSF is an international railroad operator headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. It employs more than 42,000 employees.

“BNSF employees have the right to protect their safety and that of other employees and the public without fear of retaliation by their employer,” said Gregory Baxter, regional OSHA administrator in Denver. “Our investigation and our actions on this worker’s behalf underscores the agency’s commitment to take vigorous action to protect workers’ rights.”

The company and the former employee may file objections or request a hearing, within 30 days of receipt of the agency’s order, before the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the CPSIA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

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.

FMCSA publishes final rule prohibiting coercion

FMCSAWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the publication in the Federal Register of a Final Rule to help further safeguard commercial truck and bus drivers from being compelled to violate federal safety regulations. The Rule provides FMCSA with the authority to take enforcement action not only against motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries.

“Our nation relies on millions of commercial vehicle drivers to move people and freight, and we must do everything we can to ensure that they are able to operate safely,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This Rule enables us to take enforcement action against anyone in the transportation chain who knowingly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of the driver and of the motoring public.” 

The Final Rule addresses three key areas concerning driver coercion: procedures for commercial truck and bus drivers to report incidents of coercion to the FMCSA, steps the agency could take when responding to such allegations, and penalties that may be imposed on entities found to have coerced drivers. 

“Any time a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, freight-forwarder, or broker demands that a schedule be met, one that the driver says would be impossible without violating hours-of-service restrictions or other safety regulations, that is coercion,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “No commercial driver should ever feel compelled to bypass important federal safety regulations and potentially endanger the lives of all travelers on the road.” 

In formulating this Rule, the agency heard from commercial drivers who reported being pressured to violate federal safety regulations with implicit or explicit threats of job termination, denial of subsequent trips or loads, reduced pay, forfeiture of favorable work hours or transportation jobs, or other direct retaliations.

Some of the FMCSA regulations drivers reported being coerced into violating included: hours-of-service limitations designed to prevent fatigued driving, commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements, drug and alcohol testing, the transportation of hazardous materials, and commercial regulations applicable to, among others, interstate household goods movers and passenger carriers.  

Commercial truck and bus drivers have had whistle-blower protection through the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1982, when the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) was adopted. The STAA and OSHA regulations protect drivers and other individuals working for commercial motor carriers from retaliation for reporting or engaging in activities related to certain commercial motor vehicle safety, health, or security conditions. STAA provides whistleblower protection for drivers who report coercion complaints under this Final Rule and are then retaliated against by their employer.

In June 2014, FMCSA and OSHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen the coordination and cooperation between the agencies regarding the anti-retaliation provision of the STAA. The Memorandum allows for the exchange of safety, coercion, and retaliation allegations, when received by one agency, that fall under the authority of the other. 

For more information on what constitutes coercion and how to submit a complaint to FMCSA, see: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/coercion. Please note: the Final Rule takes effect 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register.

This rulemaking was authorized by Section 32911 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 (MCSA), as amended.  

For a copy of today’s Federal Register announcement, see: www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/11/30/2015-30237/prohibiting-coercion-of-commercial-motor-vehicle-drivers.

* * *

The public, commercial drivers, motor carriers, and other industry members may file a safety, service, or discrimination complaint against a household goods moving company, bus, or truck company, including hazardous materials hauler or a cargo tank facility, by calling toll free 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, Eastern Time. Complaints may also be submitted through FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint website at: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.

FMCSA was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Its primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. For more information on FMCSA’s safety programs and activities, visit: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety, and consumer financial reform regulations. Additional information 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.

Clarifying OSHA's rule on whistleblower retaliation

osha-logo_webEarlier last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule covering railroad whistleblower cases and employer retaliation. The rule serves to clarify whistleblower protections already in place and establishes procedures and time frames for handling employee retaliation complaints covered under the National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA) and the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA).

The final rule stipulates and clarifies the following:

  1. Prompt medical treatment violations or interference with medical treatment cases will be handled procedurally the same way as all other whistleblower cases.
  2. A refusal to allow an employee to return to work, which is not based on standards recorded in the railroad’s official policies, not uniformly applied or not medically reasonable, can be offered to demonstrate that the refusal is not a legitimate safety concern, but rather motivated by retaliatory intent.
  3. The time limit to file a whistleblower complaint is 180 days after the railroad’s decision has been made and communicated to the employee. To clarify this is when the employee is aware or should be aware of the decision, not when the employee learns of the retaliatory nature of the action.
  4. A contributing factor for a retaliatory action is that the adverse action must take place within a temporal time of the protected activity, or at the first opportunity available to the retaliating manager. That can be a number of years between the protected activity and the retaliatory actions in situations where the manager did not have the opportunity to retaliate until a later time.
  5. Interest on awarded back pay will be computed by compounding daily IRS interest rates for the underpayment of taxes, which is currently the Federal short-term rate plus three percent.
  6. Front pay is a potential remedy where reinstatement is not possible because of the unacceptable working relationship, the position has been abolished or the employee is medically unable to work because of severe depression caused by the retaliation.
  7. OSHA has the authority to grant injunctive relief such as expunging certain personnel files, not applying a policy to an employee, posting a notice regarding a whistleblower result, training for managers, etc.
  8. Hearsay evidence is admissible.
  9. An employee filing a complaint in district court must give notice to OSHA within seven days after filing the complaint.
  10. An employee may file both a whistleblower and a FELA complaint at the same time. If violations of other laws are involved, employees may also file those complaints at the same time. 

OSHA issues final rule on retaliation, whistleblowing

osha-logo_webWASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule establishing procedures and time frames for handling employee retaliation complaints under the National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA) and the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). The final rule is effective Nov. 9, 2015.

NTSSA establishes protections against retaliation for public transportation agency employees who engage in whistleblowing activities related to public transportation safety or security. FRSA provides protections against retaliation for railroad carrier employees who report a work-related injury or engage in other whistleblowing activities related to railroad safety or security. These protections extend to employees of contractors and subcontractors who do work for public transportation agencies and railroad carriers.

Both provisions were enacted by the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. FRSA was amended in 2008 to prohibit railroad carriers from denying, delaying or interfering with employees’ medical or first aid treatment. The FRSA amendments also require that injured employees be promptly transported to the nearest hospital upon request.

“Railroad workers have the right to report injuries and to follow their doctor’s treatment plans for injuries sustained in the course of their employment without fearing that they will be retaliated against,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Railroad and public transit agency workers must never be silenced by the threat of losing their job when their safety or the safety of the public is at stake.”

In 2010, OSHA published an interim final rule and requested public comments. The final rule responds to the comments, incorporates recent case law under the statutes and updates the rules to improve both employees’ and employers’ access to information about the case during OSHA’s investigation and their ability to participate in OSHA’s investigation.

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection for Public Transportation Agency Workers* and Whistleblower Protection for Railroad Workers* fact sheets explain who is covered under the acts, protected activity, types of retaliation and the process for filing a complaint.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health, and consumer product safety laws and regulations. For more information, please visit 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 www.osha.gov.

OSHA explains process of whistleblower resolution

osha-logo_webWASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued policies and procedures* for applying a new process for resolving whistleblower disputes. The new process is an early resolution process that is to be used as part of a regional Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. The ADR program offers whistleblower parties the opportunity to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a neutral, confidential OSHA representative who has subject-matter expertise in whistleblower investigations. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act* requires that each federal agency “adopt a policy that addresses the use of alternative means of dispute resolution and case management.”

“OSHA receives several thousand whistleblower complaints for investigation each year,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “The Alternative Dispute Resolution process can be a valuable alternative to the expensive and time consuming process of an investigation and litigation. It will provide whistleblower complainants and respondents the option of exploring voluntary resolution of their disputes outside of the traditional investigative process.”

OSHA piloted an ADR program in two of its regions from October 2012 to September 2013. The pilot proved that the early resolution ADR process is a successful method for helping parties to reach a mutual and voluntary outcome to their whistleblower cases. The pilot program demonstrated that having staff dedicated to facilitating settlement negotiations provides an efficient and effective service that is highly desired by complainants and respondents alike.

The success of the early resolution ADR process has resulted in the agency making it available to all of its regions. This directive does not prohibit OSHA whistleblower offices from offering complainants and respondents other alternative dispute resolution processes, such as third-party mediation.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws. For more information, please visit 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 www.osha.gov.

OSHA finds BNSF violated whistleblower protections

osha-logo_webSEATTLE, Wash. – North America’s second-largest freight railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC, must reinstate a train conductor and pay the man $536,063 in back pay, damages and attorney’s fees after a federal investigation found the rail operator retaliated against its employee after reporting a knee injury.

BNSF filed disciplinary charges against the conductor after he reported the injury, which occurred in November 2010 while en route from Vancouver to Pasco. The employee filed a Federal Railroad Safety Act anti-discrimination complaint with OSHA in February 2011. Company officials fired him in August 2011 despite knowing that his injury report was protected by law.

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators determined the railroad violated federal laws protecting whistleblowers. After an investigation, OSHA ordered the reinstatement and financial compensation.

“Disciplining an employee for reporting an injury is illegal,” said Ken Atha, regional administrator for OSHA’s Seattle office. “Those who do so face negative repercussions. Retaliatory actions can discourage other workers from speaking up, which may result in an unsafe work environment.”

In addition to paying punitive and compensatory damages, OSHA ordered BNSF to rehire the employee and expunge his record of all charges and disciplinary action. The company must also conduct training for supervisors and managers on employee whistleblower rights and post a notice to employees of their whistleblower rights.

Both the employee and the railroad have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

With 38,000 employees, BNSF operates more than 7,000 locomotives and 32,500 miles of track.

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, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.

Under 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 for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed employee rights 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 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.

UP again violates Federal Railroad Safety Act

More than 200 whistleblower complaints against railroad since 2001

osha-logo_webNORTH PLATTE, Neb. – For the third time since 2011, the Union Pacific Railroad has violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act at its yard in North Platte by disciplining employees who reported workplace injuries and sought medical attention, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found. Since 2001, the company has faced more than 200 whistleblower complaints nationwide.

In the most recent case, OSHA investigators determined that Union Pacific disciplined a 35-year-employee after the locomotive freight engineer reported injuries sustained in a Dec. 22, 2013, collision and received medical attention. The company has been ordered to pay the engineer $350,000 in punitive and compensatory damages and reasonable attorney’s fees, remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record and provide information about whistleblower rights to all its employees. Prior to this incident, the employee had never been disciplined.

“It is disheartening that this employee, a loyal railroad worker for 35 years, faced disciplinary action because he sought needed medical attention for a work-related injury. Union Pacific’s actions and the repeated complaints filed by their employees are indicative of a culture that doesn’t show that same loyalty to their workers or concern for their safety,” said Marcia P. Drumm, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “Whistleblower protections play an important role in keeping workplaces safe. It is not only illegal to discipline an employee for reporting an injury and seeking medical attention, it puts everyone at risk.”

Any of the parties in this case can file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

Based in Omaha, Union Pacific Corporation is one of America’s leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, is North America’s premier railroad franchise, in 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States. It has 47,000 employees and operates 8,000 locomotives over 32,000 route miles.

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, railroad, 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 whistleblower 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 https://www.osha.gov/.

OSHA seeks nominations for Whistleblower committee

osha-logo_webWASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced that nominations are being accepted for members to serve on the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee.

OSHA is accepting nominations for six members to serve on the 12-member committee for a two-year term. The six positions will become vacant Dec. 1, 2015. Nominations will be accepted from those interested in representing management (2), labor (2), the public (1), and State Occupational Safety and Health Plan states (1).

Nominations may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal, by mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for submission details. Nominations must be submitted by May 18, 2015.

WPAC was established to advise and make recommendations to the secretary of labor and the assistant secretary for occupational safety and health on ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA’s whistleblower protection activities.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act, and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws. For more information, please visit www.whistleblowers.gov.

OSHA announces final rule on handling retaliation

osha-logo_webWASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today published a final rule finalizing procedures for handling whistleblower retaliation complaints filed under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The SOX Act protects employees who report fraudulent activities and violations of Securities Exchange Commission rules that can harm investors in publicly traded companies.

“Silencing workers who try to do the right thing is unacceptable,” said Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This final rule safeguards investors by protecting whistleblowers who shine a light on illegal or fraudulent conduct that otherwise may go uncorrected.”

SOX prohibits publicly-traded companies, nationally recognized statistical ratings organizations, and other covered persons from retaliating against an employee who provides information about conduct that the employee reasonably believes violates federal mail, wire, bank or securities fraud statutes, SEC rules, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

Workers can file a complaint with OSHA if they believe that their employer has retaliated against them for exercising their rights under SOX. OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs Web page provides instructions on how to file a complaint and information on worker rights and protections.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of SOX and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, food safety and consumer financial reform regulations. Additional information 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 www.osha.gov.

Metro-North violates rights of Connecticut worker

OSHA logo; OSHAHARTFORD, Conn. – Metro-North’s actions against an injured worker have resulted in the largest punitive damages ever in a retaliation case under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. A recent investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration uncovered these details and revealed that the worker, who is employed as a coach cleaner for the commuter rail carrier, was retaliated against after reporting the knee injury he suffered on Nov. 17, 2011. As a result, the company has been ordered to pay the employee a total of $250,000 in punitive damages, $10,000 in compensatory damages and to cover reasonable attorney fees.

While driving the injured employee to the hospital, a Metro-North supervisor also intimidated the worker, reportedly telling the worker that railroad employees who are hurt on the job are written up for safety and are not considered for advancement or promotions within the company.

Unofficial reports from other employees appear to corroborate the supervisor’s claims. For instance, one worker smashed her foot with a barrel while on the job, yet she did not file an accident report and showed up to work every day using crutches in hope of keeping her injury record clean. Another worker was injured when her hand was caught in a broken door but, like her coworker, she did not fill out an incident report for fear of reprisal.

Shortly after the Connecticut employee reported the work-related injury, Metro-North issued disciplinary charges against him. The employee filed an initial Federal Railroad Safety Act anti-discrimination complaint with OSHA on April 19, 2012. An amended complaint was filed on April 9, 2013, after the railroad issued additional disciplinary charges against him.

“When employees, fearing retaliation, hesitate to report work-related injuries and the safety hazards that caused them, companies cannot fix safety problems and neither employees nor the public are safe,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “In this case, the Metro-North’s conduct was deliberate and discriminatory, and we have assessed the maximum amount in punitive damages allowed under the law.”

OSHA’s investigation found that the employee engaged in protected activity when he reported his injury and filed his complaints with OSHA, that Metro North knew these were protected activities and that these protected activities were contributing factors in Metro North’s subsequent disciplining of the employee.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published a preliminary Special Investigation Report dated November 19, 2014, regarding several recent accidents, including fatalities, involving Metro-North. The NTSB noted in their findings that “Metro-North Railroad did not have an effective program that encouraged all employees to report safety issues and observations.” OSHA’s findings here provide another example of this: if employees are discouraged from reporting injuries, the employees and the public are endangered as Metro-North cannot correct the conditions which caused the injuries.

In addition to paying punitive and compensatory damages, OSHA ordered Metro-North to expunge the employee’s record of all charges and disciplinary action. The company must also conduct training for all supervisors and managers on employee whistleblower rights and post a notice to employees of their whistleblower rights. Both the employee and the railroad have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower* provisions of the FRSA Act 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, public transportation agency, 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 for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed employee rights 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 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.