Train Law Blog

Train Law Blog

The Source for Railroad Injuries & Whistleblower Protection

Category Archives: Federal Rail Safety Act

Subscribe to Federal Rail Safety Act RSS Feed

Recent FRSA Circuit Court Decisions

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
The 8th Circuit has issued a spate of FRSA decisions falling outside the main stream of other Circuits. It is important to put them in perspective. Araujo v. Kuduk: a distinction without a difference Citing the Congressional Record and the leading whistleblower decision in Marano v. Dep’t of Justice, 2 F.3d 1137, 1140 (Fed. Cir.… Continue Reading

ARB Reaffirms (c)(2) Protects Non Work Related Medical Conditions

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
In a major decision with national implications, the Administrative Review Board confirms that Federal Rail Safety Act subsection (c)(2) does indeed protect treatments for non-work related medical conditions. Williams v. Grand Trunk Western Railroad. In so doing, the ARB explicitly rejects the 3rd Circuit’s holding in Bala v. PATH, which imposed a work related limitation on… Continue Reading

New Guidelines on FRSA Settlement Agreements

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
Recognizing it’s hard to blow the whistle once you’ve been gagged, OSHA has issued new guidelines prohibiting the use of gag and confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements. See Policy Guidelines for Approving Settlement Agreements in Whistleblower Cases. OSHA reviews settlement agreements between whistleblowers and their employers “to ensure they are fair, adequate, reasonable, and in… Continue Reading

ARB Clarifies FRSA Punitive Damages Standard

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
The Administrative Review Board has handed down an important punitive damages decision that also shows how to eliminate a railroad’s affirmative defense. In Jason Raye v. Pan Am Railways, Inc., the Railroad charged the employee with making false statements in a Federal Rail Safety Act complaint filed with OSHA. Although Raye was never actually disciplined… Continue Reading

ARB Clarifies FRSA Burdens of Proof

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
In a major en banc decision, the Administrative Review Board clarifies the burdens of proof applicable to ALJ whistleblower trials and explains how to apply that standard. Palmer v. Canadian National Railway. This is a must read decision for anyone interested in Federal Rail Safety Act whistleblower matters, but here are some of the highlights: Proof… Continue Reading

More On FRSA Punitive Damages

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
Another Circuit Court has clarified the standard for awarding punitive damages to rail whistleblowers, this time in the context of jury instructions.  After Springfield Terminal Railway Company fired Jason Worcester for raising safety concerns, he filed a Federal Rail Safety Act whistleblower complaint in federal court.  The district judge instructed the jury that:  you can award… Continue Reading

Spotlight on CSX Retaliation

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
You can tell a lot about a workplace culture by how managers react to employee safety complaints. Enlightened managers welcome safety complaints, benighted managers suppress them. Enlightened managers view such complaints as a valuable opportunity for improvement, and underscore the first importance of safety by publicly thanking those employees. Benighted managers view such complaints as… Continue Reading

Guideposts For FRSA Punitive Damages

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
What are the guideposts for determining the amount of punitive damages in Federal Rail Safety Act cases? According to the 10th Circuit’s decision in BNSF Railway Company v. US DOL ARB [Cain], there are three guideposts whose application is informed by the text of Section 20109: The first and most important indicator of the reasonableness… Continue Reading

Expansive Scope of FRSA Adverse Action

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
The boundaries of Federal Rail Safety Act adverse action keep expanding. In Fricka v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, the Administrative Review Board confirms that FRSA adverse action goes far beyond the limits set by Title VII and Burlington Northern v. White. For example, the following actions are adverse under the FRSA: merely threatening discipline against… Continue Reading

OSHA Issues Final FRSA and NTSSA Rules

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
The Rules governing the whistleblower retaliation complaints of railroad workers under Section 20109 of the Federal Rail Safety Act now are final. And the same Rules apply to the whistleblower retaliation complaints of public transit employees under the National Transit Systems Safety Act (NTSSA). Here is the complete text of the Final Rule. OSHA’s detailed… Continue Reading

FRSA Alert! Expansive Scope of Employee Right to Medical Treatment Confirmed

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
Federal Rail Safety Act Subsection (c)(1) prohibits railroads from denying, delaying, or interfering with the medical treatment “of an employee who is injured during the course of employment.” And (c)(1) also requires that railroads provide prompt transportation to the nearest hospital for employees who are “injured during the course of employment.” Now, in a case… Continue Reading

Article Confirms Railroad Culture of Retaliation

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
Although it comes as no surprise to railroad employees, an investigative article exposes for the rest of the country how railroads continue to retaliate against workers who report safety hazards or injuries. The article is entitled: For Big Railroads, a Carload of Whistleblower Complaints and is published by FairWarning Reports. The article notes that from… Continue Reading

More On the FRSA’s “Clear and Convincing Evidence” Defense Standard

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
On the heels of its signal en banc decision in Powers v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, the Administrative Review Board has issued another important decision further clarifying the standard for a “clear and convincing evidence” defense in Federal Rail Safety Act whistleblower retaliation cases. The case is the ARB’s decision affirming the remand ruling in… Continue Reading

Another Circuit Court Shoots Down “Election of Remedies” Defense

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
In a resounding decision, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals explains why a rail worker’s pursuit of a racial or sexual discrimination claim does not constitute an “election of remedies” barring that worker from pressing a Federal Rail Safety Act Section 20109 whistleblower retaliation claim. In Lee v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company, carman Charles Lee… Continue Reading

When Context Is Everything

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
When does a sentence not mean what it seems to say? When it is quoted out of context. And that is certainly the case with one sentence in the 8th Circuit’s Kuduk v. BNSF Ry. Co., 768 F.3d 786 (8th Cir. 2014), decision railroad attorneys love to rip out of context and wave at judges… Continue Reading

FRSA District Court Decisions Update

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
The trickle of federal district court FRSA decisions has turned into a steady stream. To keep up, here is a listing of recent district court opinions interpreting Section 20109 of the Federal Rail Safety Act, with a summary of their significance. Temporal proximity Myles v. Northeast Ill. Reg’l Commuter Rail Corp., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS… Continue Reading

Railroads Cannot Interfere With Injured Worker Medical Treatment

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
In the landmark decision of Santiago v. Metro North Railroad, the Administrative Review Board held that Federal Rail Safety Act “Section 20109(c)(1) bars a railroad from denying, delaying, or interfering with an employee’s medical treatment throughout the period of treatment and recovery from a work injury.” The Administrative Review Board also held that a prima… Continue Reading

A Miscellany of FRSA Updates

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
Here are some “need to know” developments affecting Federal Rail Safety Act Section 20109 railroad whistleblower retaliation matters. New Rules of Practice For ALJ Trials As of June 18, 2015, a new set of Rules of Practice and Procedure will apply to the trial of whistleblower cases before U.S. DOL Administrative Law Judges. An increasing… Continue Reading

Administrative Review Board Clarifies FRSA Burdens of Proof

Posted in Federal Rail Safety Act
In a rare en banc decision, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board explains why the Federal Rail Safety Act’s distinct two step burden of proof process must never be merged into one. Powers v. Union Pacific Railroad Company also is significant for reminding us that the subjective evaluations of railroad managers carry virtually… Continue Reading