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OSHA: Metro-North Violated Anti-Discrimination Provisions of Federal Railroad Safety Act

U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA orders Metro-North to pay damages and attorneys’ fees to 7 Connecticut employees

A press release issued June 3 by the Connecticut Department of Labor:

Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act between 2011 and 2013 when it disciplined seven Connecticut employees for following their physicians’ instructions, a recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined. 

“Metro-North’s policy of making employees ignore a treating physician’s medical instructions or face discipline is unacceptable,” said Robert B. Hooper, OSHA’s acting regional administrator for New England. “While Metro-North says it has since changed this policy, this type of procedure, which endangers employees and the public and is illegal under the FRSA, should not exist.” 

OSHA’s investigations found that, between 2011 and 2013, the employees with duty stations in New Haven or Stamford, were issued written warnings under the railroad’s attendance policy when they each followed the orders of their physician to stay out of work. Five were carmen, one an electrician and one a foreman.

The FRSA prohibits railroad carriers from disciplining or threatening to discipline employees who follow a physician’s orders or treatment plan. 

The employees filed complaints with OSHA, which found merit to the complaints, and ordered Metro-North to pay each employee $1,000 in compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The railroad must also expunge the written warnings from each employee’s personnel record and post a workplace notice informing employees of their FRSA anti-discrimination rights.

Either party in these cases can file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges. 

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. These laws, enacted by Congress, prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.

Detailed employee rights information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

[The Labor Department does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.]

Flowers June 03, 2014 at 08:00 PM
So the taxpayers pay these slackers thousands of dollars. Will the offending members of management who ignored the law, be fined or disciplined? Me thinks this is about getting paid for sick time and not discrimination.
Molly June 04, 2014 at 08:44 AM
They get paid for sick time. This is about written warnings due to attendance where a doctor's note was provided. There are other types of discrimination other than racial. I'm not sure who you are referring to as slackers, Flowers. My husband is an engineer and MTA is very strict on attendance. These guys can work 12-hour shifts, be off duty for 8 hours (including the time to drive back and forth to work) get woken with a phone call in the middle of their 6 hour sleep to be told when the next start time is....and we crucify the engineer when the train derails.
Igor June 04, 2014 at 11:10 AM
Once again there are always two sides to the story. I work in a company where people are out with a doctor's note, come back for a few days and then out for another 3 days. Come back and then take vacation 2 days later. The same people year after year. These are blacks, whites, hispanics, women, men. So it's not just one race or sex beating the system. On the other hand if you are really sick with a doctor's note then you need and deserve the time off. Unfortunately the union backs these beaters. Remember the union president and their henchmen want to be voted back in.
Socialist Worker July 02, 2014 at 01:45 AM
I have yet to hear of a Union contract that has unlimited sick time and vacation. The capitalist want to rid themselves of the disabled from their businesses. It's a Doctor that decides weather you get a note for time off due to being sick not a union official. What the capitalists want is to be able to fire those who are in need of medical care. The Bosses instead of Doctors want to be able to decided weather you are too sick to work. Just as they want to be able to decide what your insurance will pay for under the affordable care act. They, because of their greed, which they call the most important of human character and the invisible hand logic say that only they can decided all the important decisions you make in life off and on the job.

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