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Fired for Reporting Track Defects

A veteran track inspector has recently filed suit against the BNSF Railroad alleging that they fired him for reporting a dangerous major defect in its tracks — in violation of a rail-safety law enacted by Congress. Congress amended the Federal Railroad Safety Act in 2008, after public hearings “which demonstrated that railroads have a financial incentive to discourage employees from reporting safety concerns and that they frequently act on such incentive by disparately applying vague workplace rules against employees who report safety concerns.”

In the federal lawsuit filed on April 5, 2017, it is alleged that “BNSF ensures its supervisors have a personal motive to discourage employees from reporting safety concerns by maintaining an incentive compensation plan whereby it pays its managers a yearly bonus based, in part, on productivity.” The amended Railroad Safety Act gave railroad employees the right to sue their employers in Federal Court, and added protections for whistleblower retaliation.

It is alleged in the federal complaint that the track inspector told his supervisor in June 2015 that he had found a major defect, and that the tracks had to be “taken out of service.” In response, the supervisor texted the track inspector: “Don’t do it.” As alleged in the complaint, later that day, the supervisor told him: “If you continue to do this, you know what will happen.” The fired track inspector is seeking reinstatement, lost wages, expungement of his record, damages for violations of the Railway Safety Act, damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.

Ridge & Downes is dedicated to using the legal tools provided by Congress, such as the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 2008, to protect workers from workplace harassment and retaliation.

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