This week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced its findings that a whistleblower from the Illinois Central Railroad Co., had been unfairly and illegally retaliated against by the company after the whistleblowing worker had reported his on the job, work-related injury. The worker’s reporting of being hurt on the job is protected by the Federal Railroad Safety Act.
“Railroad workers have the legal right to report work-related injuries without fear of retaliation,” said Teresa A. Harrison, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Atlanta. “Railroads that take such retaliatory actions against their workers for exercising basic rights will be held fully accountable and prosecuted.”
What happened to this Railroad Worker?
According to OSHA’s investigation, this worker worked as a railroad conductor for the Illinois Central Railroad Company, and when his moving train suddenly stopped after someone hit the train’s emergency brain, the conductor lurched back into the bulkhead suffering personal bodily injury to his head as well as his neck and back. (For details on how serious spinal cord injuries can be, go here.)
The railroad conductor was taken from the train by an ambulance to the hospital, and the trainmaster was notified about what had happened to him.
Now, the conductor continues to deal with the aftermath of that emergency brake being slammed down that day, as OSHA has just ruled in his favor as a whistleblower, ordering his employer to pay $1000 in punitive damages as well as expunging his record of disciplinary actions instituted as a result of this incident. His attorneys’ fees are to be paid by Illinois Central Railroad, as well — but it’s not over for the worker yet.
Under the law, Illinois Central has 30 days to appeal this ruling to an Administrative Law Judge.
What are Federal Whistleblower Laws for Workers on the Job in the United States?
The Department of Labor, through OSHA, oversees 22 different whistleblower laws on the books as federal laws designed to protect workers and employees who report violations of federal law by their employers.
These 22 different federal whistleblower laws (see the list here) provide legal protection against employers going after (retaliating) against workers who report alleged violations of all kinds, such as:
- Securities law;
- Financial services;
- Trucking regulations;
- Railroad laws;
- Maritime laws;
- Health Care regulations;
- Food and Drug laws;
- Workplace Safety laws;
- Environmental regulations.
If you are an employee or worker who suspects that there may be a violation of the law by your employer, then you can contact the Department of Labor to notify the government of your concerns as a protected whistleblower. For more information, go here, where complaints can be filed online or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
For more about the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) which covers railroad employees in Illinois, Indiana, and other parts of the United States, check out the Kenneth J. Allen Law Group resources page on FELA as well as prior blog posts dealing with injuries on the job and work-related injuries to railroad workers.