In November 2017, two railroad workers encountered and reported a blue flag at a train station in Waycross, Georgia, signaling that their train was not safe to travel. Because of her actions, CSX Transportation Inc. removed her from her position and later fired her, both acts found illegal in an investigation by the US Occupational Safety and Health Agency.
“All workers have the right to be safe in the workplace and by speaking up, these workers are preventing possible harm to themselves and others,” said Jim Frederick, OSHA deputy assistant secretary. “Employers who punish workers for speaking out against unsafe or unfair working conditions are breaking the law and OSHA will hold them accountable.”
OSHA has ordered CSX Transportation Inc. – a subsidiary of CSX Corp., one of the largest transportation companies in the country – to pay employees $ 667,740 plus legal fees. The amount includes back payments from the time they were made redundant in November 2017 through September 2019, as well as costs incurred by workers, including interest on the back payments, penalties for leaving their 401 (k), and indemnity and punitive damages.
CSX needs to restore both seniority and the benefits they would have received had they not been fired. In addition, OSHA ordered the employer to provide retirement credits, vacation and personal vacation days that the workers would have earned.
“CSX Transportation has violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which gives employees the right to report safety concerns without fear of retaliation,” said OSHA regional administrator Kurt Petermeyer in Atlanta. “Employer’s retaliation is illegal, and OSHA is committed to protecting workers when exercising their right to report hazards in the workplace.”
This is the third OSHA whistleblower merit determination in 10 months related to retaliation by CSX against workers who raised safety concerns. In July 2021, OSHA ordered the employer to pay $ 221,976 in arrears, interest and damages to an employee laid off in New Orleans for reporting safety concerns. In October 2020, OSHA ordered CSX to reinstate an employee and pay more than $ 95,000 in arrears and $ 75,000 in punitive damages after a worker in Rebecca, Georgia, reported an unsafe customer gate and workplace injury. Similar whistleblower investigations led to reinstatement and payment of wages and damages arrears in the New York area in 2016 and 2010.
OSHA enforces the FRSA whistleblower regulations and more than 20 other laws to protect employees who report violations of various occupational health and safety regulations, airlines, commercial motor companies, consumer products, the environment, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health insurance reform, nuclear , Pipeline, public transportation, rail, maritime, securities, tax, antitrust, and money laundering laws. For more information on whistleblower protection, see the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Programs website.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing their employees with safe and healthy workplaces. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for American workers by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and support.
publisher’s Note: The US Department of Labor does not publish the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.