The sad saga of Norfolk Southern’s reckless disregard for the rights of its injured workers continues. You would think that after nearly a dozen adverse Federal Rail Safety Act Findings ordering millions in punitive and other damages, it could not get much worse for Norfolk Southern. And yet it does.
This time, OSHA comes right out and states in its official Finding that Norfolk’s superintendent “was intentionally untruthful in the investigative hearing and to OSHA.” Ouch. And as if lying to a federal agency was not enough, OSHA stated that Norfolk’s
investigation and hearing process appear to have been intentionally orchestrated to support the decision it had already made: to terminate the Complainant’s employment. . . . Complainant was subjected to an investigative hearing that was neither fair nor impartial. Norfolk directly targeted Complainant because of his injury report and humiliated him for filing the report. . . . Norfolk’s immediate retaliation against this employee for reporting an on-the-job injury exhibited a reckless disregard for the law and total indifference to Complainant’s statutorily protected rights. . . . Norfolk’s continued callous disregard for Complainant’s and other employees’ protected rights under FRSA warrants significant punitive damages.
The facts fit the usual Norfolk Southern pattern: after doing a task a worker feels some discomfort but believes it will go away so does not report it as an injury; when the pain does not go away and increases, the next day he reports it as an injury; Norfolk Southern charges him with falsification of a personal injury, making false or conflicting statements relative to the injury, and failing to promptly report the injury; Norfolk holds the usual kangaroo court hearing and fires him. After firing him, Norfolk then offers him a “leniency waiver” which the financially desperate worker signs in order to keep his career. For earlier examples of Norfolk’s misconduct, click here and here and here and here and here.
OSHA specifically found that such “waivers” are “illegal and contrary to FRSA.” OSHA ordered Norfolk to expunge the waiver and pay, among other things: back wages, costs to purchase lost RRB credits, $125,000 in emotional distress, and $150,000 in punitive damages. Thanks to the FRSA, Norfolk is losing its war against its injured workers. For the full text of Timothy Mull v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company. For more on the FRSA, go to the free Rail Whistleblower Library.