Some people just don’t get it. CSX Transportation managers definitely fall into that group. In a lengthy Investigative Report released in March of 2008, the Federal Railroad Administration put CSX on notice that its management culture of harassment and intimidation intended to dissuade employees from reporting injuries had to stop. In response, CSXT made numerous representations to the FRA promising to change its behavior.
But guess what? The complaints of harassment and intimidation just kept flowing in to the FRA as if nothing had happened. By January of 2009, the FRA had had enough. On January 16th, the Acting Administrator of the FRA, Clifford C. Eby, issued a blistering three page letter to CSX Transportation President and Chief Executive Michael Ward. Eby pointed to the ongoing complaints despite the CSX’s list of promises, and concluded: "It is clear that CSXT has failed to adequately address its culture of harassment and intimidation. . . . CSXT has not yet fulfilled its commitments made to FRA regarding harassment and intimidation. . . . the evidence shows that CSXT’s response has been inadequate. In order to truly prevent any more instances of intimidation, CSXT must put forth a sustained good-faith effort to change its culture." For the FRA 01/16/09 letter, click here .
Clearly, the FRA’s patience has run out. If CSX doesn’t change its hostile management culture and change it quick, the FRA will step in and slap a compliance order on the CSX, putting the daily actions of CSX managers and supervisors under FRA oversight.
Meanwhile, whenever a CSX manager intimidates or retaliates against an injured employee, the new amendments to the Federal Railroad Safety Act allow that employee to file a FRSA retaliation complaint with OSHA’s Whistleblower Office. And if OSHA does not promptly resolve the complaint, the employee can jump into federal court and have a jury award punitive damages of up to $250,000 against CSX. If the number of FRSA complaints coming out of places like CSX’s West Springfield Yard in Massachusetts is any indication, federal juries are going to be very, very busy awarding punitive damages against railroads like CSX.
So while changing CSX’s hostile management culture may be a tough nut to crack, the FRA and FRSA are like the pincer arms of a nutcracker, and CSX’s nut is now caught firmly in that nutcracker’s grip. With the increasing pressure being exerted by the FRA and the FRSA, it is only a matter of time before CSX’s nut cracks wide open.