August 27, 2014

Rail Safety Alert #4: Documentation

The value of detailed documentation can never be overstated.

UTU members have been empowered to address the issue of harassment and intimidation though federal whistleblower protection that is written into law.

This protection already has had a positive impact. Recently, an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which followed information from a whistleblower, resulted in $300,000 in multiple punitive damage awards against commuter railroad Metro North

The UTU Safety Task Force has received many complaints about harassment and intimidation.

Some of the carriers have made a relentless practice of harassment for the sake of productivity, with little or no regard for our members’ safety. With your detailed documentation, this will change.

In addition to reporting all dangerous safety conditions to your respective carriers, your report should be made to your local legislative representative and state legislative director, with copies to your local chairperson and other local officers.

Your report should contain pertinent information, such as:

  1. Date and time with job/train ID
  2. Location
  3. Name of carrier official who instructed you to make an unsafe act or safety violation.
  4. Statement of the alleged safety violation, including threats, harassment, intimidation or unsafe events directly attributing to this situation.

By your paper trail of documentation, your LRs and SLDs can take the appropriate actions.

The UTU Safety Task Force suggests you familiarize yourself with these procedures in order that we all share a safer workplace.

A summary of whistleblower protection under the law follows:

The Law and its Protections:

(a) In General. — A railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce, a contractor or a subcontractor of such a railroad carrier, or an officer or employee of such a railroad carrier, may not discharge, demote, suspend, reprimand, or in any other way discriminate against an employee if such discrimination is due, in whole or in part, to the employee’s lawful, good faith act done, or perceived by the employer to have been done or about to be done—

(1) to provide information, directly cause information to be provided, or otherwise directly assist in any investigation regarding any conduct which the employee reasonably believes constitutes a violation of any Federal law, rule, or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or gross fraud, waste, or abuse of Federal grants or other public funds intended to be used for railroad safety or security, if the information or assistance is provided to or an investigation stemming from the provided information is conducted by—

 (A) a Federal, State, or local regulatory or law enforcement agency (including an office of the Inspector General under the Inspector General Act of 1978.

 (B) any Member of Congress, any committee of Congress, or the Government Accountability Office; or

 (C) a person with supervisory authority over the employee or such other person who has the authority to investigate, discover, or terminate the misconduct;

 (2) to refuse to violate or assist in the violation of any Federal law, rule, or regulation relating to railroad safety or security;

 (3) to file a complaint, or directly cause to be brought a proceeding related to the enforcement of this part or, as applicable to railroad safety or security, chapter 51 or 57 of this title, or to testify in that proceeding;

 (4) to notify, or attempt to notify, the railroad carrier or the Secretary of Transportation of a work-related personal injury or work-related illness of an employee;

 (5) to cooperate with a safety or security investigation by the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the National Transportation Safety Board;

 (6) to furnish information to the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the National Transportation Safety Board, or any Federal, State, or local regulatory or law enforcement agency as to the facts relating to any accident or incident resulting in injury or death to an individual or damage to property occurring in connection with railroad transportation;

 (7) to accurately report hours on duty.

 In addition,

(8) A railroad or person shall not deny, delay, or interfere with the medical or first aid treatment of an injured employee. If transportation to a hospital is requested by an injured employee, the railroad shall promptly arrange to have the injured employee transported to the nearest medically appropriate hospital. A railroad shall not discipline, or threaten discipline to an employee seeking medical treatment, or for following orders or a treatment plan of a treating physician. Provided, however, it will not be a violation if the refusal by the railroad is pursuant to the FRA’s medical standards regs. or a carrier’s medical standards for fitness for duty.

Remedies:

(1) In general.— An employee prevailing in any action shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole.

(2) Damages.— Relief shall include—

(A) reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had, but for the discrimination;

(B) any backpay, with interest; and

(C) compensatory damages, including compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.

(3) Possible relief.— Relief in any action may include punitive damages in an amount not to exceed $250,000.

(e) Election of Remedies.— An employee may not seek protection under both this section and another provision of law for the same allegedly unlawful act of the railroad carrier.

 (The UTU Safety Task Force was created by UTU International President Mike Futhey in response to a sharp spike in railroad on-duty employee fatalities.

(Members of the task force are: Arizona Assistant State Legislative Director Greg Hynes, chairman; Arkansas State Legislative Director Steve Evans; Michigan State Legislative Director Jerry Gibson; and Arizona State Legislative Director Scott Olson.)

View the Safety Task Force interactive Web page at:

http://utu.org/utu-rail-safety-task-force/

August 17, 2009