Norfolk Southern Railway fined over whistleblower violation - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Norfolk Southern Railway fined over whistleblower violation

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) – The U.S. Department of Labor has found that Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. An investigation by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed that the railroad terminated an employee in retaliation for reporting a workplace injury.

The department has ordered the company to pay the affected employee more than $300,000 in damages, including $200,000 in punitive damages, $75,000 in compensatory damages and $25,123.40 in attorney's fees.

Additionally, the company must expunge the disciplinary record of the employee as well as post a notice regarding employees' whistleblower protection rights under the FRSA and provide training to its employees about these rights.

These actions follow several other orders issued by the department to Norfolk Southern Railway Co. in the past year. OSHA's investigations have found that the company continues to retaliate against workers for reporting work-related injuries, which effectively has created a chilling effect in the railroad industry.

The Chattanooga-based employee in this case reported an injury when he hit his hard hat against a horizontal support beam. After conducting an investigative hearing, the railroad charged the employee with falsifying his injury and subsequently terminated him on Oct. 8, 2010.

The employee appealed, and a Public Law Board upheld the railroad's decision while reducing the termination to a suspension with no back pay. OSHA found that the railroad's investigative hearing was severely flawed and orchestrated to intentionally support management's decision to terminate the employee.

"Railroad workers throughout this country have the right to report an injury without fear of retaliation," said Cindy A. Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "The Department of Labor will continue to protect all employees, including those in the railroad industry, from retaliation for exercising these basic worker rights, and employers found in violation will be held accountable."

Either party to this case can file an appeal to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.

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