An OSHA whistleblower investigator recently asked whether railroad employees are considered to be on duty within the scope of their employement when walking over railroad property prior to the beginning of their shift or when leaving railroad property after their shift is over. Funny she asked me. The leading court decision happens to be a case I tried 20 years ago, Dolores Schneider v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

The short answer is yes. The appellate court ruled that an "employee traversing the employer’s premises to report to or to leave the job within a reasonable time of her shift is fulfilling a function necessarily incident to employment" and thus considered to be on duty within the scope of employment.

So don’t let the railroad tell you otherwise. When a railroad worker gets injured just before or after their shift begins or ends, their injury is still covered by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), and the railroad must report it to the FRA as an "on-duty injury" that is shielded from any adverse action by the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA).