The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that an investigation had determined that two employees of the Illinois Central Railroad who blew the whistle on injuries taking place in a rail yard were subjected to unlawful retaliation. Because employees have a right to report a workplace injury, the employer was ordered to pay each of them damages and lost wages.
In one of the cases, a conductor for the railroad suffered injuries on the job in an accident taking place in August of 2008. A device connecting cars of the train together broke, sending the conductor flying to the floor. The railroad later conducted a hearing after the conductor reported his injuries, and fired him, claiming that it was for violations of required safety rules.
In actuality, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined he was fired in retaliation for reporting his injury. The railroad was sanctioned by an order requiring it to pay the fired conductor $75,000 in compensatory damages, $100,000 in punitive damages, and $269,707 in back pay.
In the second case, an employee reported suffering shoulder and arm injuries while inspecting trains when he slipped and fell on a platform covered by ice. He was also fired, and OSHA found that his termination was also retaliatory. The railroad must pay him $154,694 in back wages, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
When a person is injured at work, they should be able to focus their attention on seeking treatment and getting better, rather than worrying about retaliation by the employer for simply reporting their injuries and seeking the benefits and compensation they are entitled to. Legal representation is necessary to see that injured employees are not victimized by employers.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "U.S. rules against Illinois Central railway in whistle-blower injury cases," Jon Hilkevitch, July 20, 2012