U.S. Department of Labor Orders Amtrak To Pay Damages to Fired Worker

The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered Amtrak to pay back pay, interest and punitive damages to an employee who was suspended in violation of the whistleblower provision of the Federal Rail Safety Act of 2007.

The whistleblower complaint was filed with OSHA, which handles whistleblower complaints, on Nov. 7, 2007, naming Amtrak as the defendant. Amtrak is a government-owned corporation that provides intercity railway passenger service in the United States.

The complaint alleged that an Amtrak employee, based at Seattle’s King Street Station, was suspended for 30 days for reporting a work-related injury to her employer. It further alleged that, following the filing of a complaint with OSHA’s regional office in Seattle to protest the suspension, the employee was terminated by Amtrak. An investigation conducted by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program determined that there was merit to the employee’s allegations of reprisal.

“This case sends a clear message that OSHA will not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers,” said Richard S. Terrill, OSHA’s regional administrator in Seattle. “Employees need to be able to report on-the-job injuries without fear of reprisal.”

The order issued by OSHA awards the employee back pay, interest, punitive damages and other relief. Amtrak also was ordered to post the OSHA fact sheet “Whistleblower Protection for Railroad Employees.” Either party to the case can file an appeal within 30 days of receipt of the findings to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Rail Safety Act of 2007 and 16 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws; trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, workplace safety and health regulations; and consumer product safety laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at http://www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.

Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
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