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A federal jury has awarded a railroad worker more than $1 million in a lawsuit that accused his employer of retaliating against him because he was injured on the job.
Most of the award — $1 million — was in punitive damages. The jury said employee Andrew Barati should also receive $50,000 for lost earnings, pain, suffering and disfigurement.
Barati worked for Metro-North which serves commuters in New York City and its suburbs. It’s run by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
When a jack failed and a rail tie fell on his foot in April 2008, Barati broke his big toe. He says after reporting the injury, the railroad fired him. Eventually, Metro-North decided to suspend him for three months instead, and he was hired back.
The railroad accused Barati of lowering a rail and block tie without checking foot clearance. Metro-North says the employee was disciplined for violating company policy. Barati, who was a new employee at the time of the incident, says he wasn’t properly trained.
OSHA investigated and found reasonable cause to believe Metro-North violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 2008 which prohibits railroads from interfering with injured workers’ medical treatment or disciplining them for reporting or seeking treatment for an injury on the job. OSHA said Barati hadn’t operated a manual track jack except for a couple of minutes during orientation.
This is the first verdict under the 2008 railroad law.
Metro-North says it’s reviewing the jury’s verdict “with an eye to appeal.”
The employee may not receive the entire jury amount because the 2008 law caps awards at $250,000.
Barati’s attorney, Charles Boetsch, said the jury sent a clear message to railroads about retaliation. “The message is that retaliation against railroad workers who report injuries and safety concerns will not be tolerated,” he said.
Three other Metro-North employees who filed similar complaints are still waiting for their cases to come to trial.