Union Pacific Railroad fosters a “culture of retaliation,” according to OSHA, and owes a whistleblowing injured worker $350,000 in damages. According to the agency, which handles complaints from workers in a number of industries through the Whistleblower Protection Program http://www.whistleblowers.gov , more than 200 whistleblower complaints have been logged against the railroad since 2001.
"Union Pacific strongly disagrees with OSHA's findings in this case. We will appeal,” said a Union Pacific spokesperson.
OSHA claims that the most recent case is the third time since 2011 that the Union Pacific Railroad has violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act at its yard in North Platte by disciplining employees who reported workplace injuries and sought medical attention. The agency is charged with enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
In this most-recent case, OSHA investigators determined that Union Pacific disciplined a 35-year-employee after the locomotive freight engineer reported injuries sustained in a Dec. 22, 2013 collision and received medical attention. The company has been ordered to pay the engineer $350,000 in punitive and compensatory damages and reasonable attorney’s fees, remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record and provide information about whistleblower rights to all its employees. Prior to this incident, the employee had never been disciplined.
“It is disheartening that this employee, a loyal railroad worker for 35 years, faced disciplinary action because he sought needed medical attention for a work-related injury,” said Marcia P. Drumm, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “Union Pacific’s actions and the repeated complaints filed by their employees are indicative of a culture that doesn’t show that same loyalty to their workers or concern for their safety.”
Whistleblower protections, she added, “play an important role in keeping workplaces safe. It is not only illegal to discipline an employee for reporting an injury and seeking medical attention, it puts everyone at risk.”
Union Pacific is filing an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
Based in Omaha, Union Pacific Corp. is one of America’s leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, is North America’s premier railroad franchise, in 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States. It has 47,000 employees and operates 8,000 locomotives over 32,000 route miles.