BNSF Railway Ordered to Pay $12K to Worker

The railway company must pay a worker who was disciplined for taking doctor-ordered leave.

BNSF Railway Co. has been found in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, according to a news release from OSHA. The violation is for disciplining an employee at its Murray Yard complex for following a physician's treatment plan. The company must pay the conductor $12,000 in damages, remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record, and provide whistleblower rights information to its employees.

"It is illegal to discipline an employee for following doctor's orders," said Marcia P. Drumm, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Kansas City. "Workers should never be forced to choose between their health and facing disciplinary action. Whistleblower protections play an important role in keeping workplaces safe."

An investigation by OSHA upheld the allegation that the railroad company disciplined the conductor, who has been employed there since 2004, in retaliation for taking leave in line with a doctor's treatment plan. The employee was ill and notified a supervisor that he was seeing a doctor the afternoon of Nov. 18, 2013. Following his doctor's appointment, the conductor immediately notified a supervisor that the doctor had ordered him to stay out of work for the remainder of the day, due to a personal illness. The company then accused the employee of violating its attendance policy and subsequently disciplined the employee.

BNSF Railway has been ordered to pay $2,000 in compensatory and $10,000 in punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees.

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