Case brought under Federal Railroad Safety Act
Metro-North’s actions against an injured worker have resulted in the issuance of maximum penalties, the largest punitive damages ever in a worker retaliation case under the Federal Railroad Safety Act.
A recent OSHA investigation revealed that the worker, who is employed as a coach cleaner for the commuter rail carrier, was retaliated against after reporting a knee injury he suffered on the job. Other employees who suffered job-related injuries did not report them out of fear of reprisal. Proposed penalties include $250,000 in punitive damages and $10,000 in compensatory damages and attorney fees.
“When employees, fearing retaliation, hesitate to report work-related injuries and the safety hazards that caused them, companies cannot fix safety problems and neither employees nor the public are safe,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “In this case, the Metro-North’s conduct was deliberate and discriminatory, and we have assessed the maximum amount in punitive damages allowed under the law.”
In addition to paying punitive and compensatory damages, OSHA ordered Metro-North to expunge the employee’s record of all charges and disciplinary action. The company must also conduct training for all supervisors and managers on employee whistleblower rights and post a notice to employees of these rights.