In a follow-up to a previous report on how railroad companies skirt safety protocols in a quest to maximize profits, a nonprofit news outlet recently published another article exposing the railroad industry’s culture of systematically punishing workers who report injuries. The report provides first-hand accounts of workers who were denied medical treatment, retaliated against, and even bribed not to report injuries. A driving factor for this type of behavior is the injury compensation system governing the railroad industry, which promotes an adversarial relationship between workers and supervisors.
In most industries in the United States, employees who are injured on the job can collect workers’ compensation no matter who is at fault for their injuries. In return, they are prevented from suing their employers. The railroad industry, however, is governed by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, which allows injured workers to sue their employers for on-the-job injuries. This often results in higher recoveries for the worker, but requires proof that the railroad was somehow at fault, at least in part. Not surprisingly, upper management typically utilizes performance metrics and bonus systems that aims to punish lower-level supervisors if workers are injured on the job. This causes supervisors to take an antagonistic approach when it comes to workplace injuries and motivates them to conceal injuries and/or retaliate against those who file injury reports. Thankfully, Congress took measures to protect injured workers by passing an anti-retaliation law in 2007.
After hearing shocking testimony in which more than 200 cases of workers being harassed following injuries were identified, the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) was amended to include toughened safety rules, oversight, and whistleblower protections. It also requires railroad companies to ensure injured workers receive prompt medical care following an injury.
Workers who are retaliated against may be entitled to significant compensation under the FRSA. In 2021, BNSF track inspector claimed he was fired for reporting safety defects and a federal jury awarded him over $9.4 million for his wrongful termination. If you believe you have been retaliated for reporting an injury or safety concern contact us today for a free consultation.