A recent OSHA whistleblower investigation discovered the National Railroad Passenger Corp., also known as Amtrak, reprimanded a supervisor in its inspector general's office when he raised safety concerns.
In early to mid-2010, the worker, a supervisory special agent, was in the process of investigating an Amtrak contractor for fraud and was testing concrete at Amtrak tunnel projects. While at the worksite, the employee discovered unsafe conditions resulting from work performed by the contractor and raised concerns.
The agent provided this information to Amta’s Dispute Resolution Office, which provided support for a fellow employee who had received a letter of reprimand after he raised safety concerns in a separate case.
Amtrak retaliated against the worker, first with a negative performance review and subsequently eliminating his position, claiming reorganization. According to OSHA, the agent applied for other positions but was rejected for not having proper law enforcement training despite have 40 years of experience in law enforcement.
After he was terminated, the employee raised a whistleblower complaint with OSHA who determined the complainant was protected by the Federal Railroad Safety Act.
"In this case, an employee was terminated for pursuing and reporting safety concerns. The employer's retaliation is unacceptable and illegal,” said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA's acting New England regional administrator in a statement. “Federal law gives rail carrier employees the right to raise safety, health and security concerns with their supervisors without fear of retaliation. When retaliation occurs, it can have a chilling effect on employees and create a climate of silence where employees' fear to speak up masks conditions that could impact their health and well-being, and that of their customers.”
Because of the retaliatory findings, Amtrak has been ordered to reinstate the employee to his former or a similar position with all rights, seniority and benefits as well as pay him a total of $892,551 which includes back wages, interest as well as punitive and compensatory damages and court costs.
Amtrak must also expunge all references at the company related to his discharge and exercise of his FRSA rights, make no adverse statements concerning his employment at Amtrak and not retaliate or discriminate against him in any manner.
Finally, the company must post a notice to all railroad employees about their FRSA rights.
The employee and Amtrak each have 30 days from receipt of OSHA's findings to file objections and request a hearing before the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.