It’s official. Thanks to the Federal Rail Safety Act, railroads can no longer impose discipline based on vague safety rules that are triggered only when a worker reports an injury.

Every railroad has so-called "safety" rules stating employees must "be alert and attentive" and "take care to prevent injury to themselves" and "when in doubt take the safe course." Any worker who reports an injury automatically is in violation of such rules, whose only function is to provide a basis to discipline workers who report injuries. In effect, such rules prohibit employees from being injured, and then are used as a bogus basis to discipline workers who report an injury.

Those days are over. In a case where a conductor slipped on ice and was suspended for ten days after the railroad found he "was not alert" and "caused an injury to himself" and "did not take the safe course," OSHA’s Whistleblower Office slapped the railroad with $100,000 in FRSA punitive damages, plus $25,000 for emotional distress. From now on, railroads that uses such vague "safety" rules to discipline injured employees are just asking to get hit with FRSA punitive damages. For the full text of the FRSA Award, click here.