In our last post we discussed a $932k fine imposed against Norfolk Southern Railway Co. for allegedly firing two injured workers. In both workers’ cases, it appears that the railroad sought to limit its liability for their workplace injuries by alleging that the workers lied about the nature and seriousness of their injuries.
One of the workers was a Decatur utility switchman who was injured when a train derailed in a train yard. The other worker was a Michigan-based trackman who was injured in an on-the-job car accident. He was diagnosed with whiplash and developed back, neck and shoulder problems as well.
In both cases, the railroad alleged that the workers made inconsistent or false statements concerning their injuries and decided to fire them. An investigation by inspectors from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed no evidence that the workers lied about their injuries.
The railroad company was ordered to reinstate the workers with backpay, benefits and seniority. OSHA inspectors founds that the railroad has a history of retaliating against employees who report workplace injuries and that this has had a chilling effect across the 30,000-person company.
This case is primarily a whistleblower case involving violations of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). FELA is similar to many state workers’ compensation laws and holding employers accountable for violations of FELA rules requires the same amount of detailed legal knowledge as workers’ compensation litigation.
It is important for workers to contact a workers’ compensation/FELA lawyer after suffering a workplace accident in order to ensure similar violations do not occur.
Source: OSHA, “Norfolk Southern Railway Co. ordered by US Labor Department’s OSHA to pay more than $932,000 after illegally terminating 2 injured workers,” Region 5 News Release: 12-1763-CHI