The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered Norfolk Southern Railway Co. to pay more than $300,000 to a Chattanooga worker who blew the whistle after a job injury, according to a news release.
The worker in the case reported an injury when he hit his hard hat against a horizontal support beam, according to the release by Labor Department spokesman Michael D’Aquino.
After conducting an investigative hearing, the railroad charged the employee with falsifying his injury and then fired him Oct. 8, 2010, according to the release. The employee appealed, and a Public Law Board upheld the railroad’s decision while reducing the termination to a suspension with no back pay.
According to the release, OSHA found that the railroad’s investigative hearing “was severely flawed and orchestrated to intentionally support management’s decision to terminate the employee.”
The employee will receive $200,000 in punitive damages, $75,000 in compensatory damages and $25,123.40 in attorney’s fees. Norfolk Southern must expunge the worker’s disciplinary record and notify and train employees about their whistleblower protection rights under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, the release stated.
D’Aquino’s release said the department has issued several other orders to Norfolk Southern in the past year related to retaliating against workers for reporting work-related injuries.
The release quoted Cindy A. Coe, OSHA regional administrator, saying workers “have the right to report an injury without fear of retaliation.” Either party to this case can file an appeal to the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, the release stated.