The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) has announced that Norfolk Southern Railway Co. will be required to pay $1.1 million to three employees after the agency uncovered evidence that the railroad retaliated against the men after they reported injuries.
OSHA revealed just last week that it had finished conducting two investigations into Norfolk Southern and discovered that the company violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, specifically the sections dealing with whistleblowers. Norfolk Southern violated the FRSA when it fired each of the three employees who came forward to report on-the-job injuries.
In the case of one worker, Norfolk Southern was found to have fired a crane operator out of Fort Wayne, Indiana back in 2010 after he made the mistake of reporting an injury while on the job. The worker was hurt when some metal shavings got in his eye and was fired after Norfolk Southern accused him of making false statements about his injury. OSHA ordered Norfolk Southern to pay the crane operator $438,000 in punitive damages and back wages. Norfolk Southern was also ordered to rehire the man to his old position and restore all the vacation time and sick days he had accrued.
The other two workers, a welder and a welder’s assistant out of Pennsylvania, both lost their jobs after they reported workplace accidents. Norfolk Southern fired them after accusing them of suffering the injuries in a car accident and passing them off as work-related. The two were eventually awarded $684,000 by OSHA.
Federal regulators released a statement saying that Norfolk Southern “continues to retaliate against employees for reporting work-related injuries.” Even more troubling, according to OSHA, is how Norfolk Sothern’s actions have created a “chilling effect” on other workers in the railroad industry.
Beyond these recent incidents, in November Norfolk Southern was ordered to pay another worker in Georgia nearly $300,000 after firing him for reporting a work-related injury. Only three months before that OSHA ruled against the railroad company in two more cases involving wrongfully terminated injured workers.
Norfolk Southern says it will appeal the decision to an administrative law judge. The company claims the decisions were based on a flawed agency process and that it will clear its name in the coming months.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton & Favaloro personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.