In an April 23, 2013 press release, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it found that the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp., known as Metra, violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The violation occurred when a signalman’s work hours were changed and his position was eliminated after he made a safety complaint. The company is ordered to pay more than $38,080 in overtime, along with interest, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.
"An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report safety issues," said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago. "When employees can’t report safety concerns on the job without fear of retaliation, worker safety and, in this case, passenger safety on Metra, becomes a serious concern."
An OSHA investigation upheld the 22-year Metra employee’s allegation that the railroad reduced his overtime hours and eventually eliminated his position in retaliation for reporting a safety complaint on or about Aug. 1, 2011. After the employee reported that signal routes were not tested properly due to time constraints, he began to experience a reduction in overtime hours. Following his complaint filed with the secretary of labor alleging Metra had retaliated against him in violation of the FRSA, his position was eliminated.
OSHA’s investigation found that the reporting of the safety issue was used as a pretext by the employer to reduce overtime and eliminate the employee’s position. Metra provided no explanation for the reduced overtime hours or for eliminating the position so soon after the employee made his safety complaint.
The railroad carrier has been ordered to remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record and to provide whistle-blower rights information to its employees. Either party in the case can file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
Read OSHA’s Press Release