OSHA Whistleblower Settlement Totals More Than $892k
A longtime Amtrak law enforcement employee who lost his job after he raised concern over possible railroad safety, as well as possible fraud and abuse involving a railroad contractor, has gotten his job back and was awarded a settlement of $892,551 by order of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This enormous OSHA whistleblower settlement demonstrates that it is very important to report problems when you see them. The law will protect you
What originally happened was, in mid-2010, the law enforcement agent in question was investigating a contractor who had done work with Amtrak after said contractor was convicted of fraud in a state court in New York. The fraud occurred when the contractor was running performance tests on the concrete used in various building projects in the New York City area. Because this former Amtrak contractor had also conducted performance testing on several Amtrak tunnel projects, this agent felt that it was necessary to retest those projects out of concern for basic safety and security.
Later, in October 2010, the agent provided Amtrak’s Dispute Resolution Office with information and support for another Amtrak employee who had received a letter of reprimand after raising safety concerns in a separate matter. In Nov. 2010, the agent received a negative performance review for the first time, and then, in March 2011, Amtrak notified the agent that his position was being eliminated as part of an overall reorganization. For a few months after that, the agent applied for other positions with Amtrak, but he was told repeatedly that he lacked the requisite law enforcement training, even though he had a 40-year career in law enforcement, including equivalent training. Finally, in June 2011, Amtrak notified the agent that he was being terminated because he had not been placed in a new position.
Following his termination, the former employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. After it conducted a thorough investigation, OSHA determined that the former employee was legally engaged in protected Federal Railroad Safety Act activities in raising concerns about safety and when he supported another employee’s safety complaints. They also determined that these actions were contributing factors in the employee’s termination, which violated the law.
OSHA ordered Amtrak to take a number of corrective actions, including the reinstatement of the employee to his former or a similar position, with all rights, seniority, and benefits he would have received had he not been discharged. They were also ordered to expunge all employee records related to these complaints and the wrongful termination and they are not allowed to retaliate or discriminate him or anyone else in any similar manner. They must also pay him $723,332 in back wages plus $34,218 in interest, as well as $100,000 in punitive damages and $35,000 in compensatory damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. All told, the employee will receive a total of $892,551.
As an employee, you have the ultimate right to register a complaint with your employer when it comes to workplace safety, or the safety of anyone else. You also have a right to file a complaint with OSHA when your employer doesn’t respond to your concerns in a way that solves the problem. There are protections for whistleblowers in the law and employers still have to follow workplace safety standards. If you believe your employer has retaliated against you because you have made a complaint about an unsafe situation, please contact the Texas Worksite Injury Lawyer at the Hill Law Firm as soon as possible. We can investigate and help you protect your legal rights. All initial consultations are free.