Violation of Third Employee’s FRSA Rights Increases Award Against Norfolk Southern
(Washington, D.C. – February 28, 2013)
The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration Thursday added the case of a third unlawfully dismissed employee of the Norfolk Southern Railway to awards already made to two other wrongfully-discharged NS employees last week.
The third case involved a Fort Wayne, IN crane operator who was removed from service after he reported an eye injury incurred while he was working in support of a bridge construction project in Albany, IN in 2010. His injury consisted of the imbedding of a metal sliver and subsequent development of a rust ring, and the operator was terminated August 24, 2010 following a formal investigation which allegedly charged that the worker had made false statements regarding the injury.
OSHA, which administers the Federal Railway Safety Act’s “whistleblower” provisions, found in favor of the employee, ordering the railroad to pay him a total of $437,591.70 in damages for lost pay and benefits, and also ordered his reinstatement with a purged record and all Railroad Retirement Board months of service credited and paid that he had been denied during his lengthy unemployment. The initial sum also included payment to the employee of over $6,000 in penalties he was assessed for the necessity of his having to cash in savings bonds prior to their maturity dates. Also awarded the worker were an undisclosed amount of attorney’s fees incurred in fighting the railroads errant actions.
The amount, when added to awards made to two other wrongfully-terminated workers last week, brought Norfolk Southern’s penalties for the three unlawful employee discharges to over $1.1 million. The other two employees, who had been injured while riding in a company vehicle in a case of another motorist running a red light and initiating a chain-reaction collision, were a thermite welder and a welder’s helper in western Pennsylvania. The two workers had a total of 36 years without incident before their injuries were incurred. All three employees were awarded credit for seniority, vacation, and retirement benefits lost during their forced railroad unemployment.
“The Labor Department continues to find serious whistleblower violations at Norfolk Southern, and we will be steadfast in our defense of a worker’s right to a safe job – including his or her right to report injuries,” declared acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris, adding that “When workers can’t report safety concerns on the job without fear of retaliation, worker safety and health suffer, which costs working families and businesses alike.”
A U.S. Dept. of Labor press release noted that “These actions follow several other orders issued by OSHA against Norfolk Southern Railway Co. in the past two years. OSHA’s investigations have found that the company continues to retaliate against employees for reporting work-related injuries, and these actions have effectively created a chilling effect in the railroad industry.”