The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently cited and fined Norfolk Southern Railway for $1.1 million due to the company’s violation of federal whistle blowing laws. It was discovered that three of Norfolk’s employees were wrongfully terminated for reporting injuries they had suffered on the job.
Do You Have the Right to Blow the Whistle?
The three employees at the center of OSHA’s decision were found to have been wrongfully terminated in the wake of suffering injuries while working and reporting them to management. In particular, two of the workers initially thought they had only received minor wounds, but when they began experiencing significant pain, they sought medical treatment and subsequently notified management of their on-the-job injuries. The company unlawfully fired them under the pretense that they had intentionally misrepresented their injuries.
Part of OSHA’s fines against the company included compensation for the pain, suffering, back wages and attorney fees of the affected workers.
All employers are subject to federal employment laws, but industry-specific laws regulate some even further. Railroad companies are governed under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which protects railroad workers who choose to report violations of federal safety laws. In particular, it bans discrimination against employees who:
- “…provide information…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…”
In the case of Norfolk Southern Railway, the whistle blowing workers had already been injured. However, railroad employees have the legal right to report any dangerous environment, actions or policy that their employer enforces. If an employer asks its employees to violate or assist in the violation of a federal law, workers can report such requests as well.
Every laborer in the United States has rights under federal law, but that does not mean that employers always respect the legal protections of employees. Federally mandated workplace rights include:
- Protection against discrimination
- Protection from retaliation due to whistle blowing
- Workers’ compensation for on-the-job injuries
- Protection from wrongful termination
Although the federal government does all that it can to protect workers’ rights, sometimes that is not enough. If you believe that your employer unfairly terminated you, or if you are considering whistle blowing, contact our office today. Our Los Angeles employment lawyer will work with you to protect your rights and, if necessary, pursue compensation for your pain and suffering. You have rights under law, and we are prepared to fight to ensure that they are respected.