RCL Wiring LP, which operates as Idaho & Sedalia Transportation Company, harassed and terminated a signal shop technician in retaliation for reporting a work-related injury in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators determined. OSHA has ordered the company to give the employee his job back and pay more than $332,469 in back wages and damages, as well as reasonable attorney's fees.
Investigators determined the Sedalia-based transportation company disciplined the five-year employee after he reported injuries sustained Feb. 1, 2014. After the technician asked the company for reimbursement of medical co-payments, Idaho & Sedalia required him to submit a second injury report, and then threatened to discipline him for filing it late. Without a thorough investigation, the company terminated him on June 12, 2014, for allegedly making harassing and threatening statements.
OSHA ordered Idaho & Sedalia to reinstate the technician and pay him $154,749 in back wages, plus interest minus applicable employment deductions, as well as $177,720 in punitive and compensatory damages and reasonable attorney's fees. The company also must remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and provide information about whistleblower rights to its employees. Prior to this incident, the employee had never been disciplined.
"It is disheartening that this employee was ultimately terminated because he exercised his rights and reported a work-related injury. Even more egregious is that, without a thorough investigation, the company accused a loyal employee of making harassing and threatening statements to other workers," said Marcia P. Drumm, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. "Whistleblower protections play an important role in keeping workplaces safe. It is illegal to discipline an employee for reporting an injury and seeking medical attention, and it puts everyone at risk."
Any of the parties in this case can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.