Union Pacific Ordered To Reinstate Worker Fired After Reporting Injury

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A lawsuit involving a worker who was fired after falling out of a chair has landed Union Pacific in the hot seat, now that they've been ordered to reinstate him and pay $85,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

The employee, who filed a workplace-injury report after hurting his back falling out of a chair at a railroad terminal, was fired in violation of whistleblower protection laws, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined.

"An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report work-related injuries and safety concerns," Marcia Drumm, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Kansas City, told Omaha.com. "Whistleblower protections play an important role in keeping workplaces safe. Workers should never be forced to choose between safe work practices and keeping their job."

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Filing injury reports is protected under federal railroad law; the OSHA's investigation concluded that the firing was an unlawful act of retaliation, and that Union Pacific "engaged hostility toward the employee for reporting the injury."

Along with the $10,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages (as well as legal fees), Union Pacific must remove disciplinary notations from the employee's record and provide information to all workers on whistleblower rights.

"Union Pacific has received and is reviewing OSHA's decision," spokeswoman Calli Hite told Omaha.com. "Union Pacific complies with the Federal Railway Safety Act, and employee, customer and public safety is its top priority."

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