In 2011, a railroad worker filed a complaint against Pan Am Railways, Inc., claiming he was subjected to retaliation after filing a Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) whistleblower complaint. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the complaint against the North Billerica-based railroad and decided in favor of the employee. A federal appeals court has agreed, ordering the railway company to pay $260,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
The employee, who worked in a Waterville, Maine rail yard, was accused by his employer of dishonesty in connection to an injury-related whistleblower complaint. For their retaliatory actions, Pan Am Railways, Inc. was ordered to compensate the employee to the tune of $10,000, pay $40,000 in punitive damages, and take corrective actions so that a similar incident doesn’t occur in the future. The railway company appealed.
Appeals Denied, Punitive Damages Skyrocket
In 2014, OSHA’s findings were upheld by an administrative law judge, and the amount of punitive damages was increased to $250,000. Pan Am appealed a second time, and was again denied. A third appeal, this time to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, was denied on April 21, 2017. A Boston whistleblower attorney can help if you believe you have been retaliated against by an employer.
“This case is a strong reminder that our whistleblower laws prohibit reprisals against employees who file whistleblower complaints, report workplace injuries and illnesses, or raise awareness of hazardous safety or security conditions,” said OSHA’s New England regional administrator, Galen Blanton.
Whistleblowers Protect Us All
Whistleblower provisions within the FRSA are strictly enforced by OSHA so that employees who report health, safety and security violations are protected from employer retaliation. These protections are important because an employee who becomes aware of safety or security issues would be less likely to report these issues if he or she was concerned about retaliation. Considering that these violations could result in serious risk to public health, safety and security, it is crucial that such violations are reported to the appropriate person or entity. A MA whistleblower attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have unique information about such a violation.
“A safe and healthy workplace is a goal we should all aspire to achieve. Discriminatory actions by employers, including but not limited to retaliation, can freeze employees into silence. Hazardous conditions can go unreported as a result, and lead to avoidable human and financial costs,” said OSHA’s regional solicitor of labor for New England, Michael Felsen.
Remedies for Retaliation Under FRSA
When OSHA determines that an employee has been retaliated against, FRSA holds that he or she may be entitled to be “made whole” through multiple remedies. These can include:
- All general relief needed to make the employee whole.
- Employment reinstatement, providing the same seniority status.
- Any backpay owed.
- Compensation for litigation expenses, attorney fees, and any special damages resulting from the discrimination.
- Punitive damages not to exceed $250,000.
Altman & Altman, LLP – Whistleblower Law Firm Serving All of MA
If you believe that you have been retaliated against for filling a complaint against your employer, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of MA workers for more than 50 years. We will thoroughly examine the details of your case to determine the best way to move forward. Employer retaliation can result in devastating financial losses. It is our goal to get you the compensation you deserve so that you can move on with your life. If you have been harmed due to an employer’s actions, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.