New York-New Jersey Railroad Found in Violation of Whistleblower Law

A whistleblower investigation by OSHA has found that The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. of New York and New Jersey violated the rights of an employee when it imposed discipline on her for exercising her rights under the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

According to OSHA, the employee was injured when a chair she sat on broke, causing her to fall. When she reported the injury, the railroad charged her with having caused the accident herself. The employee then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA alleging that the railroad had disciplined her for reporting her injury. The agency's investigation, conducted under FRSA whistleblower provisions, found merit to the complaint.

"Railroad employees have the legal right to report work-related injuries," said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. "Railroads that retaliate against employees for exercising their rights will be held accountable."

As a result of its findings, OSHA has ordered The Port Authority to pay $1,000 in punitive damages and to take corrective actions, including expunging disciplinary actions and references to them from various records as well as compensating the worker for attorneys' fees. The railroad must also post and provide its employees with information on their FRSA whistleblower rights.

The railroad and the complainant have 30 days from receipt of the findings to file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. Under FRSA, employees of a railroad carrier and its contractors and subcontractors are protected against retaliation for reporting on-the-job injuries as well as reporting certain safety and security violations and cooperating with investigations by OSHA and other regulatory agencies. OSHA also enforces statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, public transportation and consumer product safety laws. Detailed information is available online at www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.

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