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August 22, 2012
Railroads to pay workers over whistleblowing

Two railroad companies have been ordered by OSHA to pay three workers a total of $650,729 in back wages and damages for retaliating against them for reporting safety concerns. The case involves the Illinois Central Railroad and the Chicago, Fort Wayne, and Eastern Railroad.

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OSHA’s Chicago office investigated complaints from employees and conducted investigations under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA).

OSHA found that Illinois Central violated the law by retaliating against two employees in separate incidents at the Markham Railroad Yard. The first employee, a conductor, was knocked unconscious and sustained injuries while switching railcars in the yard. A connection between the cars allegedly broke, causing the cars to jolt and the worker to fall. The railroad held a hearing into the matter and then terminated the conductor.

In another instance, a car man reported an injury sustained while walking along a platform to inspect cars in the poorly lighted yard. The worker slipped on ice and tried to catch himself. He was also terminated following an investigation.
In the third incident, a Chicago, Fort Wayne, and Eastern conductor was fired after raising concerns about workplace safety while serving in a leadership role of the union.

Earlier this summer, OSHA and the Federal Railroad Administration signed an agreement to facilitate enforcement of FRSA’s whistleblower provisions.

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