A whistleblower who allegedly 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. The agency ordered the Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad company to take a number of corrective measures in addition to compensating the whistleblower.
“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 underscore the agency’s commitment to take vigorous action to protect workers’ rights.”
Denver’s CBS4 News reported 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.
Mr. Fresque 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.”
“Freight trains filled with flammable cargo can also turn into rolling bombs in a derailment,” CBS4 reported. Track defects are the second leading cause of rail accidents after human error.
Mr. Fresque and his lawyer told CBS 4 BNSF pushes to keep trains moving despite rail problems.
“They are not in the business of taking tracks out of service, so the longer they can delay that, the more trains they can run and the more money they can make,” Mr. Fresque’s attorney said.
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 in the period of time were made against U.S. railroads, with BNSF and Union Pacific receiving the lion’s share of those complaints.
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CBS Denver 4