The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is requiring the Norfolk Southern Railway Co. to pay monetary relief for violating the whistleblowing protection provisions of the Federal Safety Act.
Furthermore, the company has been ordered to remove the disciplinary records from the three former employees whom the company terminated. Also, Norfolk Southern Railway is required to post notices regarding the railroad employees’ whistleblower protection rights and provide training to its employees regarding said rights.
The previous investigations were completed by the OSHA’s three satellite offices. The investigations showed reasonable cause to believe that the employees’ reporting of their injuries sustained from the workplace led to their wrongful termination.
On August 14, 2009, a worker based in Greenville, South Carolina was wrongfully terminated following his report of an injury as a result of being hit by the company’s gang truck. The railroad reasoned out that the employee improperly performed his duties, which resulted to the accident.
The OSHA found out that the employee was also treated unfairly after being involved in the said accident and being the only one injured. Said employee was the only one among the four workers involved in the accident who was fired from the company.
Meanwhile, on March 31, 2010, an engineer at a Norfolk Southern facility in Louisville in Kentucky was terminated after reporting an injury as a result of a trip-and-fall accident in a locomotive restroom. The agency found out that the company deliberately flawed and orchestrated the investigative hearing regarding the engineer’s case to justify the employee’s termination.
On the other hand, last July 22, 2010, a railroad conductor based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was terminated after reporting a head injury he sustained when he lost his consciousness and fell down steps while returning from the locomotive lavatory. The company claimed that the employee failed to report the injury immediately and that he made a false and conflicting statement regarding the matter, which the OSHA found baseless and without merit.
The total amount of monetary fines that Norfolk Southern Railway Co. is about to pay reached $802,168.70.
Terminating an employee for reporting an injury is illegal. Aside from it being unlawful, it also endangers all employees. If employees are discouraged from reporting a work-related injury, no investigation to the injury will occur, according to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels.
Dr. Michaels encourages workers to promptly report a work-related injury without fear of retaliation to prevent further injuries.
Such action came to light after several orders issued by OSHA against Norfolk Southern Railway Co. in the previous year. After a series of investigation conducted by the OSHA, work-related injuries in the railroad industry had been toned down, and a Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer agrees on that.