N.Y. Railroad Reprimanded after Whistleblower Complaint

An OSHA whistleblower investigation found that the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) Corp. violated an employee's rights when he was disciplined for exercising those rights under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. PATH is a rapid transit railroad linking Manhattan, N.Y., with New Jersey, and providing service to Jersey City, Hoboken, Harrison, and Newark.

The employee, under a doctor's order, was absent from work while recovering from an injury. The railroad brought the employee up on charges for absenteeism, and the employee ultimately was suspended. The worker filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA alleging that the railroad suspended him for following his doctor's order not to work while recovering from the injury. OSHA's investigation, conducted under the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA, found merit to the complaint.

"Railroad employees have the statutory right to report work-related injuries and to follow the orders or treatment plan of a treating physician," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Railroads who retaliate against employees for exercising their rights will be held accountable."

As a result of its findings, OSHA has ordered PATH to take corrective action, including expunging disciplinary actions and references to them from various records as well as compensating the worker for lost wages resulting from the suspension. The railroad also must post and provide its employees with information on their FRSA whistleblower rights. PATH 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 enforces statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, public transportation, and consumer product safety laws. For more information about the agency's whistleblower activities, go to www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.

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