Here’s stark confirmation that the cost of retaliation is punitive damages and broken management careers.

A jury in Newark, New Jersey, just found that the top manager in the NJ Transit Police Department, Chief Joseph Bober, retaliated against female officer Theresa Frizalone after she complained about discrimination. The jury awarded her $1.5 million in damages (with another $500,000 in attorney fees to come). $1 million of that is for punitive damages to send a message to the Railroad that such retaliation is totally unacceptable in our society and will not be tolerated by juries.

And what happened to Chief Bober? The day after the verdict, Bober was no longer working for NJ Transit. He had been Chief since 2002 and had been earning $159,000 a year. All that gone with a jury’s finding of retaliation. So here’s my question to managers like Bober: Is it worth it? Is whatever twisted satisfaction you gain from retaliating against your employees worth destroying your career while forcing your railroad to pay millions in punitive damages?

Unless railroad managers start getting it, such verdicts are only going to increase. The Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 USC 20109, prohibits retaliation against employees who report injuries or complain about safety or security issues, and juries are free to award punitive damages against managers who violate that new law. So railroad managers are now on notice, and the choice is theirs to make. They can put their careers at risk by retaliating, or they can respect the rights of their employees to engage in activities protected under the FRSA.