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CONDUCTOR WINS "WHISTLEBLOWER" CASE AGAINST WISCONSIN CENTRAL
Sustaining An Injury Does Not Demonstrate A Railroader Violated A Rule
Written by Frank E. Van Bree
The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, issued an order on July 15, 2011, in a “Whistleblower” complaint filed by a Wisconsin Central (CN) Railroad Conductor pursuant to Section 49 U.S.C. 20109 of the Federal Rail Safety Act.
The Conductor reported an on the job injury, as required by railroad rules, on January 30, 2010 which under the statute is a protected activity. The following day the railroad issued a notice ordering the Conductor to attend a Formal Investigation to ascertain his responsibility for sustaining a personal injury and to ascertain if he violated any railroad rules.
The investigation was postponed until he was able to return to work from his injury. The investigation revealed that the railroad had abandoned previous efforts to treat an ice covered service road which the Conductor was required to use in the performance of his duties. He slipped on the untreated ice resulting in his injury. None the less, the railroad found him guilty of violating several rules and suspended him for ten days. Essentially, the railroad’s response to the OSHA investigator was that the fact that he sustained an injury demonstrated that he violated the railroad’s rules.
RAILROAD PAYS FOR RECKLESS DISREGARD OF THE LAW
The order requires the Canadian National/ Wisconsin Central to cease and desist automatic issuance of notice of investigation for employees who report work injuries and awarded the Conductor his lost wages of $3,300.00 plus interest, compensatory damages of $25,000 for mental pain and emotional distress due to the humiliation and loss of income from the wrongful suspension, and $100,000 in punitive damages for the railroad’s reckless disregard for the law and complete indifference to the United States Congressional authority to enact laws and delegate investigatory authority to the Secretary of Labor, and the rights afforded the Complainant by 49 U.S.C. 20109 and 29 CFR 1982.
CONDUCTOR'S WORK RECORD CLEARED
The order also requires the payment of the Conductor’s attorney fees and requires the railroad to expunge all of its records relating to the Notice of Investigation, the investigation itself and the discipline assessed. It also requires CN /WC to provide all employees with an FRSA Fact sheet advising them of their rights for reporting work related injuries and illnesses.
The Conductor was represented by the railroad injury attorneys of Hoey & Farina. For more information regarding your Whistleblower rights contact Hoey & Farina at 1-888 425-1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.