The U.S. Department of Labor‘s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced last week that it has ordered the Illinois Central Railroad Co. and the Chicago, Central and Pacific Railroad to pay a former employee more than $80,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees for their wrongful termination.
An OSHA investigation found that a former railroad employee reported sustaining injuries while on the job. Both railroads ordered an investigation to determine the cause of the employees' injuries. Thereafter, the railroads ended the injured worker's employment. The U.S. Labor Department keeps the names of employees involved in whistle-blower complaints confidential.
Charles E. Adkin, OSHA’s regional administrator was quoted in a press release as having said, "An employer does not have the right to retaliate against its employees who report work-related injuries."
Railroad carriers are required to act in accordance with the whistle-blower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which protects employees who report violations of any federal law, rule, or regulation relating to railroad safety or security or who engage in other activities protected by the act.
According to the OSHA Web site, OSHA also administers the whistle-blowing provisions of sixteen other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, consumer product, and securities laws.
A person filing a complaint of discrimination or retaliation is required to show that he or she engaged in protected activity, the employer knew about that activity, and the employer subjected him or her to an adverse employment action as a result. Adverse employment action is generally defined as a material change in the terms or conditions of employment.
Some work related injuries that do not result in adverse employment actions do cause damage to employees' health and in some cases result in death.
According to the Federal Railroad Association Office of Safety Analysis, in 2009, there were 15 employee rail fatalities in the United States, down 34.8 percent from 2008. Nonfatal employee on duty injuries have steadily declined since 2002 with 3,913 reported cases in the U.S. in 2009, a decrease of 14.5 percent from 2008.