By Brendan O'Brien
(Reuters) - The Occupational Safety and Health
Administration has ordered Norfolk Southern Railway Co to pay
$1.1 million to three employees, finding the company retaliated
against them after they reported injuries.
The agency said on Thursday it conducted two investigations
and found the company violated Federal Railroad Safety Act
whistle-blower regulations when it fired the three employees.
The ruling comes after a series of other orders against
Norfolk Southern in the past two years, the agency said.
"The company continues to retaliate against employees for
reporting work-related injuries, and these actions have
effectively created a chilling effect in the railroad industry,"
OSHA said in a statement.
Railroad company officials said Friday they will appeal the
decisions to an administrative law judge.
Robin Chapman, a company representative, said the decisions
were based on a "flawed, one-sided procedure in which the
railroad was not permitted to question the employees under oath
or cross-examine witnesses."
Chapman added the railroad company was in the midst of
discussing mediation and attempting to reach a voluntary
resolution with the employees when OSHA made its rulings.
In one of the investigations, OSHA found a worker was
wrongfully terminated for reporting an injury. The worker, a
crane operator in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was fired in August 2010
after he reported an injury while on the job, OSHA said.
He was injured when a sliver of metal landed in his eye and
his job was terminated by the company after it accused him of
making a false statement regarding his injury, according to the
The railroad was ordered to pay the crane operator $438,000
in punitive damages, back wages, benefits and out-of-pocket
It was also ordered to reinstate him to the proper seniority
level, with vacation and sick days that he would otherwise have
Another OSHA investigation found that two employees were
terminated after they reported injuries to management.
The two workers, a welder and the welder's assistant in
western Pennsylvania, lost their jobs after the rail company
concluded they falsely reported injuries suffered in a traffic
accident, according to the agency.
OSHA ordered Norfolk Southern to pay the pair $684,000 in
punitive damages, lost wages, benefits and out-of-pocket costs.
OSHA also ordered the company to expunge the disciplinary
records of the three workers, post employee whistle-blower
protection rights and train workers on their rights.
In November, the agency ordered Norfolk Southern to pay
$288,000 to a worker in Georgia who was terminated after he
reported a workplace injury.
Three months earlier, the agency ordered the rail company to
pay $932,000 to two workers in similar cases.
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