Finding a “culture of retaliation” at Union Pacific, OSHA awarded $350,000 in damages to a 35-year locomotive freight engineer who suffered retaliation for reporting injuries. OSHA concluded that Union Pacific violated the whistleblower protection provision of the FRSA. Prior to reporting a work injury, the freight engineer had never been disciplined.
OSHA ordered Union Pacific to pay the engineer $350,000 in punitive and compensatory damages and reasonable attorney’s fees, remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record and provide information about whistleblower rights to all its employees.
The Federal Railroad Safety Act prohibits retaliation against a railroad employee who provides information to a regulatory or law enforcement agency, a member of Congress, or any person with supervisory authority over the employee about a reasonably perceived violation of federal law relating to railroad safety or security, or the abuse of public funds appropriated for railroad safety. In addition, the FRSA protects an employee who:
- refuses to violate a federal law, rule or regulation related to railroad safety or security;
- files a complaint under FRSA;
- notifies or attempts to notify the railroad carrier or Department of Transportation of a work-related personal injury or illness of an employee;
- cooperates with safety or security investigations conducted by the DOT, Department of Homeland Security, or National Transportation Safety Board;
- furnishes information to the DOT, DHS, NTSB, or any federal, state or local law enforcement agency regarding an accident resulting in death or injury to a person in connection with railroad transportation; or
- accurately reports hours on duty.
A prevailing FRSA whistleblower can obtain a wide range of remedies, including: (1) reinstatement, (2) back pay, (3) compensatory damages, (4) attorney fees and litigation costs; and (5) punitive damages up to $250,000.
Whistleblower Retaliation Damages