In 2007, the United States Congress significantly increased the protections afforded to railroad employees for engaging in safety related conduct in the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”). In hearings prior to the 2007 FRSA amendments, Congress found harassment and retaliation within the railroad industry to be rampant. Employees were being significantly deterred from reporting injuries and safety issues in fear of retaliation, specifically being subject to internal company discipline. Congress expressly enacted the new law to unfreeze these activities and make it illegal for railroads to retaliate against its employees.
These new protections make it illegal for railroads to discriminate in any way, and specifically discipline, employees for engagement in these protected activities. To name a few, those activities include reporting or attempting to notify the railroad of an injury, a safety complaint, or reporting a medical illness or condition. An information sheet on the new provisions of the FRSA and the activities it protects from railroad discrimination can be viewed by clicking on the attached link. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA-factsheet-whistleblower-railroad.pdf
Leading the Way in FRSA
Since the new FRSA employee protection provisions were signed into law, the attorneys at Harrington, Thompson have literally been on the front lines of prosecuting these claims and holding railroads responsible under the law for their illegal behavior. Importantly, FRSA claimants have two potential avenues to recovery — an administrative process through the department of labor and direct litigation in federal courts. Attorneys at our firm are well versed at handling claims in both forums.
These victories include serving as lead counsel in various successful whistleblower hearing resulting in employees being fully reinstated into service after job termination, removing of discipline from personnel files, compensatory damages, and full awards of lost wages. Moreover, our law firm is currently handling multiple appeals before the Department of Labor and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal protecting railroad employee victories.
Despite the relative infancy stages of the regulation, highlights of our stellar and successful published results include:
- Laidler v. CN, 2014-FRS-00099 (Aug. 13, 2015)(full reinstatement with back pay and $100,000.00 award in punitive damages to employee fired after on-property and alleged “impartial” investigation process deemed a “sham” by Administrative Law Judge subsequent to termination for refusing to perform unsafe roll-by inspection of passing train).
- Coates v. Grand Trunk, 2013-FRS-00003 (Dec. 19, 2013) (full reinstatement, payment of wages and compensatory damages to employee fired in connection with the report of personal injury and prior complaint to OSHA).
- Williams v. Grand Trunk, 2013-FRS-00033 (Aug. 11, 2014)(payment of lost wages and compensatory damages to employee fired for absenteeism related to marking off sick pursuant to the order of his treating physician).
- Kruse v. Norfolk Southern Rwy. Co., 2011-FRS-00022 (Aug. 12, 2012)(payment of compensatory damages to employee suspended 30 days for speeding charge deemed pretextual to retaliation for prior report of personal injury).
- Norfolk Southern Rwy. Co. v. Perez, 778 F.3d 507 (6th Cir. 2015)(defended decision allowing railroad employees to concurrently prosecute collective bargaining act disputes and whistleblower discrimination claims. Issue of first impression in the Circuit impacting all employees in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee).
If you believe you have been illegally discriminated against by your railroad employer, you should take action quickly and contact us online or call us at 800-828-5828 to set up a free consultation with an experienced lawyer. Initiating such a claim does have time restrictions, thus seeking competent legal counsel in a timely fashion is essential. Railroads have significant resources on their side. You need an experienced advocate on yours.