Railroad Whistleblower Claims (FRSA)

Railroad Whistleblower Claims (FRSA)

Railroad employees have long recognized that their employers have a well-established culture of harassment and intimidation with regard to the reporting of work-related injuries and safety issues in general. There is powerful protection for employees who report injuries or unsafe conditions.

It is a violation of Federal Law for a railroad to: “discharge, discriminate, demote, suspend, reprimand, or in any way discriminate, in whole or in part, against an employee that notifies or attempts to notify the railroad of a work-related personal injury or illness.” 49 U.S. C. 20109(a)(4).

If the railroad violates any of these rights, the employee has the right to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If successful, the employee is entitled to reinstatement, back pay with interest, attorneys fees and potential punitive damages up to $250,000.00.

How Does The FRSA Protect You?

  • A railroad may not discipline an employee for reporting an injury or an unsafe condition done in good faith.
  • A railroad may not discipline an employee for refusing to violate any federal law, rule or regulation relating to railroad safety.
  • A railroad may not discipline an employee for refusing to perform dangerous or unsafe work when done in good faith and where no reasonable alternative exists, and the danger is immediate.
  • A railroad may not harass or intimidate an employee in a manner designed to discourage or prevent such employee from receiving proper medical treatment or from reporting an injury. 
  • A railroad may not tell an injured employee that he/she will be disciplined or investigated if an injury report is filed. 
  • A railroad may not discipline an employee if the railroad interfered with the employee’s ability to make prompt report of the injury. 
  • A railroad may not refuse to furnish the injured worker with an injury report form. 
  • A railroad may not refuse to provide an injured employee with immediate medical treatment at the nearest facility.

How Long Do I Have To File A FRSA Complaint?

A railroad employee impacted by disciplinary action or adverse action of any kind has 180 days from the date of the action to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This is an absolute deadline that cannot be missed. OSHA prefers a written complaint but will accept a telephonic notice of complaint as well. It is imperative that a railroad employee so impacted by a potentially adverse action contact competent railroad legal counsel as soon as possible. Legal assistance is important at an early stage to ensure that any investigation held by the railroad under the Railway labor act incorporates potential FRSA Whistleblower considerations.

What Damages Are Recoverable In A FRSA Whistleblower Claim?

If successful with a Whistleblower claim, a railroad employee may be awarded the following damages:

  • reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had, but for the discrimination;
  • any backpay, with interest;
  • compensatory damages, including compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees;
  • punitive damages in an amount not to exceed $250,000.

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