A whistleblower who was fired in retaliation for reporting railroad track defects to management at BNSF Railway Company will receive more than $147,000 in back pay and damages. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said BNSF’s actions in firing the track inspector for reporting track defects violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act’s whistleblower protections.
OSHA ordered the Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad company to take a number of corrective measures in addition to compensating the whistleblower. Gregory Baxter, regional OSHA administrator in Denver, stated:
BNSF employees have the right to protect their safety and that of other employees and the public without fear of retaliation by their employer. Our investigation and our actions on this worker’s behalf underscore the agency’s commitment to take vigorous action to protect workers’ rights.
It was reported by CBS4 News that the whistleblower, identified as Brandon Fresque, had to ride the rails every day looking for track defects. Last year, after finding safety defects on the tracks and reporting them to his supervisor, Mr. Fresque was told to falsify his report. In an interview, he told CBS4 that a confrontation ensued shortly after he was told to falsify the report, and that he was “removed from service and later fired.”
It was reported by CBS4 that “Freight trains filled with flammable cargo can also turn into rolling bombs in a derailment.” Track defects are the second leading cause of rail accidents after human error.
It was reported that BNSF pushes to keep trains moving despite rail problems and that they do so in order to make more money. The longer they can delay fixing problems, the more trains they can run and the more money they can make. From October 2007 through June 2015, OSHA regulators received more than 2,000 complaints of retaliation filed by railroad industry employees. In fact, about 70 percent of whistleblower complaints during the period of time were made against U.S. railroads, with BNSF and Union Pacific receiving the lion’s share of those complaints.
Sources: OSHA and CBS Denver 4