Talk about leveling the playing field. OSHA’s FRSA Whistleblowers have sent another powerful message to rail management: sorry guys, but the days of business as usual are officially over. Supervisors are no longer free to retaliate at will against employees who raise safety concerns.

It all started when a Union Pacific Railroad Company welder performing work on adjacent railroad tracks asked for a lookout and tools to make the job safer. His reward? Instead of a thank you for trying to be safe, his supervisor abolished his job, forcing him to increase his daily commute by 131 miles and taking him away from his family for extended periods of time.

The welder filed a whistleblower complaint under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, and OSHA’s investigation concluded the Railroad’s abolishment of the position was illegal retaliation. In so ruling, OSHA’s regional administrator stated a simple principle that will reverberate throughout the railroad industry:

"A supervisor does not have the right to abolish a job position because he becomes annoyed by a worker voicing safety concerns."

Wow. Amen and Hallelujah, brother.

But that’s not all. OSHA ordered the Railroad to reassign the welder to his former position, reimburse him for his travel expenses, and pay compensatory damages for his personal hardship. And to top it off, the Railroad was ordered to provide whistleblower rights information to all its employees. For the OSHA Press Release, click here.

So now it is getting very real for the railroads. The FRSA has taken away the right of managers to retaliate at will against employees who get under their skin by reporting injuries or raising safety concerns. From now on, any railroad arrogant enough to ignore the FRSA will be forced to pay dearly for it.