(Washington, DC – February 27, 2013)
Another railroad has been fined and monetarily disciplined for violating the Federal Railroad Safety Act by dismissing two Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division workers for allegedly seeking medical treatment for injuries they received when a company vehicle they were riding in was involved in a multi-vehicle accident on May 17, 2010.
Wednesday’s action wasn’t the first time Norfolk Southern has been cited by OSHA, which oversees the FRSA, for violating employee protection stipulations (Section 20109) of the Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008 as part of the aftermath of the devastating Chatsworth, CA collision between a Metrolink commuter passenger train and a standing Union Pacific freight train in 2006. Since 2012, OSHA actions against NS for back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs to employees through the FRSA have totaled around $3 million.
OSHA found that the BMWED-represented workers’ discharges were founded upon “misleading reports of a wholly discredited NS hired-gun ‘expert’,” according to a BMWED news release. NS had charged that the two employees, who had exemplary work records for the Virginia-based railroad, had made “false and conflicting” statements regarding medical treatment they sought following the 2010 incident.
Norfolk Southern was ordered to recompense the two unidentified employees a total of $683,508 for lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, and punitive damages, as well as all reasonable attorney fees, a sum not disclosed by the news release.
The railroad was further ordered to credit both employees with all Railroad Retirement months of service they would have earned had they not been unlawfully dismissed by the NS, to expunge their records, and to conduct training of NS’s Pittsburgh, PA managers and employees in regard to “employees’ rights to file injury reports without fear of retaliation.”
BMWED President Freddie N. Simpson credited OSHA for “doing a great job in enforcing a law passed with strong bipartisan support,” as well as Asst. Secretary of Labor and OSHA Director Dr. David Michaels and his staff to “thoroughly investigate whistleblower complains and deliver fact-based justice to railroad workers.”
“The financial and emotional toll suffered by these outstanding NS employees can never be erased,” added Simpson. “I hope these long-suffering families can find solace in the fact that they have been vindicated and the employees’ reputation for integrity has been restored.”