Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has been ordered to pay $932,000 to two workers who OSHA says were illegally fired for reporting injuries.
In one case, a switchman based in Decatur, IL, was fired in August 2009 after reporting an injury to his shoulder three months earlier. The injury occurred while the worker was riding a train that derailed during movement of cars in the Decatur yard.
Norfolk Southern said the employee provided false information about his injury.
OSHA has ordered the railroad to pay him a total of $581,000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and back wages and benefits.
In the second case, a trackman in Melvindale, MI, was fired in August 2009 after Norfolk Southern said he made false statements regarding his injuries to receive time off.
The worker was injured while traveling from the Melvindale terminal to a job site. The truck hit a rough patch of road, causing the worker to strike his head on its roof and suffer whiplash. OSHA’s investigation determined the trackman’s injury caused severe medical problems involving his back, neck and shoulders, which restrict his ability to sit, stand, walk and operate machinery.
OSHA ordered Norfolk Southern to pay him a total of almost $351,000 including compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and medical expenses.
Since 2011, OSHA has cited Norfolk Southern four times regarding the firing of seven employees who had reported injuries at work. The recent two cases involve the largest penalty against the railroad.
Norfolk Southern has appealed the previous cases to an administrative law judge. It has up to 30 days to decide whether to appeal the two most recent cases.
In an interview with a Virginia newspaper, top Norfolk Southern lawyers said the growth of cases against the railroad is the result of the “adversarial atmosphere” created by the Federal Employers Liability Act, which requires railroad workers to prove their employers’ negligence to received workers’ compensation.