Railroad Medical Departments, beware, you can no longer interfere with an injured employee’s medical treatment. Subsection (c) of the Federal Rail Safety Act prohibits a railroad from denying, delaying, or interfering with the medical treatment of an injured employee. The FRSA also prohibits a railroad from disciplining an employee for following the orders or treatment plan of his treating doctor. The railroads argue this FRSA protection only applies to an injured employee’s emergency medical treatment. But in the first decision interpreting the meaning and scope of FRSA subsection (c), Administrative Law Judge Colleen A. Geraghty has made it clear the FRSA’s
provisions protect employees from interference with medical care or the treatment plan of a treating physician during the course of treatment and recovery from a work injury. . . . Accordingly, an employer’s changing the classification of an injury occurring at the workplace to a non-occupational injury may rise to the level of "interference with medical treatment" depending on the circumstances.
For a link to the full opinion, click Santiago v. Metro North Railroad. Metro North had reported Santiago’s on the job injury to the FRA as occupational and paid for Santiago’s medical bills accordingly. But then in the middle of his treatment, the Metro North Medical Department unilaterally reclassified Santiago’s injury as non-occupational (without amending its FRA report), thus forcing him to choose between forgoing his treating doctor’s medical treatment plan or paying for it from his own funds. The result? He now has personally paid or owes over $16,000 in medical bills. His case is going to trial next week. Stay tuned for any punitive damage award.