OSHA Orders Connecticut Railroad Co. to Compensate Whistleblower

OSHA has ordered the railroad, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, to take corrective action and pay the worker $80,500 in punitive damages and attorney's fees.

A whistleblower investigation by OSHA has found that the Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. brought disciplinary charges against an employee in the railroad's New Haven, Conn., rail yard who filed a whistleblower complaint with the agency. OSHA has ordered the railroad, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, to take corrective action and pay the worker $80,500 in punitive damages and attorney's fees.

"Taking repeated disciplinary action against an employee who exercised his legal right to report an on-the-job injury and voiced a complaint about retaliatory treatment by his employer is unconscionable," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator, located in Boston. "Such treatment instills a culture of silence in which hazardous conditions are masked because employees will be fearful of reporting them."

The employee faced disciplinary action from Metro North after he filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA in November 2008 that alleged retaliation related to his earlier reporting of a workplace injury. OSHA's investigation, conducted under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, found merit to the complaint.

As a result, OSHA has ordered Metro North to take corrective actions, including expunging disciplinary actions and references to the worker from various records, reimbursing the worker a total of $5,500 in attorney's fees, and paying him punitive damages in the amount of $75,000. In addition, the railroad must provide its employees with information about their whistleblower rights and their right to report on-the-job injuries.

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