Federal regulators have ordered the railroad company CSX Transportation Inc. to reinstate a whistleblower and pay him more than $197,000 in back wages and other compensation after determining the company fired him for reporting unsafe conditions and an on-the-job injury.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that CSX violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report unsafe work conditions, workplace injuries, and other violations.
The agency said CSX issued the employee a charge letter and subjected him to an investigative hearing that led to his termination, simply because he did the right thing.
OSHA ordered Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX to pay the terminated worker more than $95,000 in back wages, $75,000 in punitive damages, and $27,000 in compensatory damages, plus attorney’s fees.
“This order underscores the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to protect employees who report workplace hazards and injuries,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer in Atlanta, Georgia.
Railroads and retaliation
CSX and other railroad companies have a long history of retaliating against employees who report safety issues or simply become injured on the job. Justice for railroad whistleblowers has prompted lawyers and some government officials to push for higher penalties and criminal charges for railroads and executives who flout the law.
Currently, OSHA can assess a maximum fine of $250,000 against railroads and “no jail time for company managers who break job safety rules and laws, or order workers to do so,” according to People’s World.
Critics say these soft penalties are hardly a deterrent to railroads, which continue to lash out against workers who stand up for safety.
Advocates for railroad whistleblowers and workers in general say that maximum fines of $5 million for egregious violations of federal rules and standards would be a good place to start, in addition to criminal penalties and actions by company officials who knowingly break the law.
“They understand that kind of take,” one railroad employee told People’s World.
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 the nation’s workforce by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education and assistance.
Beasley Allen has a Whistleblower Litigation Team in place to handle whistleblower retaliation claims. Due to our firm’s heavy involvement in whistleblower litigation, there was a definite need for the creation of a team specializing in whistleblower cases. Corporate wrongdoing can and has put workers and the American public at risk, ad whistleblowers should be thanked and rewarded for calling out these risks instead of being punished for them.
A person who has been terminated from his or her job for refusing to risk their lives or the lives of others may have a whistleblower case. Before you report suspected fraud or other wrongdoing – before you “blow the whistle” – it is important to make sure you have a valid claim and that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Beasley Allen’s group of lawyers dedicated to handling whistleblower cases can navigate you the oftentimes risky and complex litigation.
Lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team are Lance Gould, Larry Golston, Lauren Miles, Leon Hampton, Paul Evans and Tyner Helms. If you are aware of fraud being committed against the federal or state governments, you could be rewarded for reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, you can contact a lawyer at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim.