When people are injured on the job here in Milwaukee, they may suddenly have several questions about their rights and options. From seeking medical care to navigating the workers’ compensation system, to securing time off of work to recuperate, there are many things on the immediate to-do list of the injured worker. The farthest thing from his or her mind should be whether his or her job could be at risk for simply reporting the injury, but unfortunately, that does happen here in Wisconsin and throughout the country.
Just last week, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Labor has found that the Norfolk Southern Railway Co. violated federal whistle-blower laws when firing workers who reported workplace injuries.
The workers included a utility switchman in Illinois and a trackman in Michigan who were fired shortly after reporting their workplace accidents. The railroad company has now been ordered to pay them $932,000.
Whistle-blower retaliation unfortunately appears to be a trend at the railroad company. At the beginning of August, the company was ordered to pay $300,000 to another worker who was injured on the job and fired after reporting it–and this was reportedly the fifth incident of its kind in a year at the company.
Oddly, four of those first five cases were announced within months of the company winning the railroad industry’s E.H. Harriman first-place safety award for the 23rd time. However, OSHA has charged that the company intimidates its workers, creating a hostile workplace in which workers fear reporting injuries–thus the company maintains its award-winning safety record.
The railroad company has challenged all of the decisions in these retaliation cases.
Workers should not have to fear retaliation after reporting a workplace injury. Not only is this illegal under federal employment law, but injured workers deserve support, not retribution, in order to obtain proper medical care and compensation in the aftermath of an injury.
Injured workers who think their rights might have been violated are often wise to talk to an employment law advocate.
- STLToday.com, “Norfolk Southern ordered to pay workers $932,000,” Aug. 29, 2012
- The Virginian-Pilot, “Norfolk Southern told to pay another fired employee,” Robert McCabe, Aug. 9, 2012