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Wisconsin Central ordered to pay more than $352,000 in back wages for firing injured conductor

(Source: U.S. Department of Labor press release, April 10, 2014)

CHICAGO -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found Wisconsin Central Limited railway in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act for terminating a conductor following the reporting of a workplace injury that occurred in Manitowoc, Wis.

"The majority of complaints received by OSHA under the Federal Railroad Safety Act involve allegations that a railroad worker has been retaliated against for reporting an on-the-job injury. No worker should feel his job is at risk for reporting an injury or seeking medical attention," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "When employees are disciplined for reporting workplace injuries, safety concerns or illnesses, worker safety and health are clearly not the company's priority."

OSHA has ordered Wisconsin Central, a subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway, to pay the conductor $352,082.75. Included in the amount is $217,082.75 in back wages, applicable employment taxes, $60,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages. The company also will be required to reinstate the worker, pay reasonable attorney's fees, remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and must provide whistleblower rights information* to workers.

The conductor was within his 60-day probationary period when the injury occurred. The injury was reported later that day, but not before the end of his shift. On his last day of probation, he was issued a removal-from-service letter that rejected his employment application. Later, the railroad stated that he had violated a company rule by failing to report an injury before his workday ended.

Either party in these cases can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces 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, maritime and securities laws.

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 to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

Friday, April 11, 2014

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