Railroad companies and employers should understand that railroad work is one of the most dangerous professions in the country and keep their employees’ best interests at heart.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
But if you were fired, pulled from service, or charged as a railroad employee for reporting a railroad work-related injury or unsafe condition, then there is still a path to justice. Our experienced Houston, Texas team at Roven Camp knows that The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) protects workers, and we are prepared to use this protection to fight for your rights and then work towards your recovery.
Read more about the justice process if you were fired for reporting a work-related injury.
What are my workers’ rights under OSHA?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was established in 1970 to protect workers’ rights by way of workplace health and safety.
In a dangerous field like railroad work, OSHA is a crucial law. Per the U.S. Department of Labor, employees’ rights include, but are not limited to:
- Receiving access to OSHA standards, rules, and regulations.
- Receiving access to medical and work hazard exposure records.
- Reporting to OSHA representatives unsafe working conditions or other safety violations.
- Requesting a local OSHA office conduct workplace inspections.
- Requesting anonymity when filing formal, written OSHA complaints.
- Receiving protection from employer retaliation after reporting injuries or unsafe working conditions.
In some instances, a worker may have reported a work-related injury or unsafe conditions in a railroad accident report.
If the railroad retaliates against you, this is in violation of OSHA. You should still plan to follow OSHA’s administrative procedures and include any unsafe working conditions when filing a report or complaint with OSHA.
What is wrongful termination and/or retaliation under OSHA and the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA)?
Employer retaliation against railroad employees can include several wrongful treatments for whistleblowers.
Some examples include:
- Being pulled from service pending charges and investigation
Wrongful termination and retaliation is one of the worst consequences for whistleblowers who want to preserve the safety of themselves and others working on the railroad. However, as you can see, this right is fortunately protected under OSHA and the FRSA.
It’s also important to note that it’s possible to have a whistleblower case under OSHA even if you were not fired. If the railroad takes any adverse action against you, including sending you a letter saying you’re charged for a rule violation and going through a hearing, you may be able to file a complaint with OSHA.
What steps should I take after wrongful termination or retaliation under OSHA or the FRSA?
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your position for reporting an injury, consult with a skilled railroad injury attorney like the team at Roven Camp.
Once you have consulted with a knowledgeable lawyer, they can provide insight into the next steps – which could include filing a complaint with OSHA, as well as a new complaint about your wrongful termination or retaliation.
Documents regarding a whistleblower complaint form will be submitted to your local OSHA representatives. This paperwork may include details such as:
- Dates of hire and termination
- Date(s) of retaliation
- Details of the retaliation (in this case, wrongful termination or adverse action)
- Name of the individual(s) who retaliated against you or participated in the process
- Reason(s) provided for your termination or adverse action, if any
- Reason(s) you believe you were terminated
- Other relevant information and evidence
Under the Federal Railway Safety Act, an employee is required to file a complaint with OSHA within 180 days of the railroad taking an “adverse action.” Generally, this would be the date that you were pulled from service or received a charge letter notifying you of an investigation.
However, there are exceptions and you should always consult with an experienced railroad lawyer like Roven Camp to determine your rights and any potential deadlines for filing a complaint.
If you find yourself in an emergency situation and need to file a complaint immediately for violation of the FRSA, you can do so here: https://www.osha.gov/whistleblower/WBComplaint.
You can amend this complaint at a later date after speaking with a knowledgeable railroad injury attorney like Roven Camp.
More Information about OSHA
The duty of an employer under OSHA requires that workers be provided a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
Thus, if the workplace is unsafe, the OSHA is violated.
The OSHA law covers railroad workers where another federal agency has not exercised authority over the particular working condition involved. Therefore, it is necessary to determine whether the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration issued a rule or regulation over a specific working condition. If not, the OSHA laws are applicable.
For example, generally OSHA has authority in rail yards and shops, whereas the operations over rails themselves are covered under the FRA’s rules and regulations.
Other activity protected under OSHA includes:
- Refusing to violate any federal law, rule, or regulation relating to railroad safety or security.
- Reporting a hazardous safety or security condition.
- Reporting a work-related injury or illness.
- Accurately reporting hours of duty.
- Refusing to work when confronted with a hazardous safety or security condition.
- Requesting medical or first-aid treatment.
What happens after I file my wrongful termination complaint?
Once your local OSHA office receives your complaint, they will begin to process your claim. Your role at this stage is to aid the investigation as much as possible. Provide any documentation, testimony, and evidence (paystubs, communication, etc.) as requested. Respond to information requests with haste and accuracy. The OSHA investigator assigned to your case will likely want to take a recorded statement from you.
Note that OSHA investigations can take several weeks or months. At times, OSHA may try to settle your dispute with the employer, which could include with job reinstatement, monetary damage, or at times both.
Under the FRSA, if OSHA does not take action on your behalf, they will most likely provide you with a letter stating that they are not taking action and that you may file a complaint in Federal Court. Alternatively, if OSHA does not take action within 210 days of the complaint, then you can file a case in Federal Court. You must wait until you receive this “right to sue” letter or until 210 days have expired before you can file a case in Federal Court.
While your wrongful termination claim is underway, our attorneys at Roven Camp can work with you to determine your best course of action for recovery after your work-related injury – including how to get medical treatment and how to pay your bills while you’re unable to work.
Contact Roven Camp railroad injury lawyers today
Our team of railroad injury lawyers based in Houston, Texas is trusted, respected, and experienced. We bring to the table years of experience fighting on behalf of our clients and their families, for the sake of their dignity, and for the sake of justice.
If you were wrongfully terminated in an act of retaliation for reporting your workplace injury, don’t lose hope. Roven Camp can help you stand up for yourself. Contact us today to learn more about your rights.