Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) is supposed to investigate and remedy retaliation against employees who blow the whistle on contractor fraud or safety hazards. But in a ruling that raises serious questions about Amtrak’s commitment to whistle blower protection, OSHA has found Amtrak terminated one of its own OIG Supervisors for raising concerns about contractor fraud and safety. That Supervisory Special Agent is my client, Michael DeJoseph. OSHA has ordered Amtrak to immediately reinstate him and pay him over $900,000 in damages.
Michael’s long career in law enforcement is impressive. A graduate of the Connecticut State Police Academy and the FBI National Academy, he served 29 years on the Newtown Connecticut Police Department, retiring as Chief of Police. He then joined Amtrak’s OIG, where for ten years he was Supervisory Special Agent-in-Charge of the NYC and Boston offices, overseeing sensitive investigations into allegations of fraud and mismanagement by high level Amtrak management.
The trouble began when Michael discovered that ten concrete inspectors who certified the concrete used on Amtrak’s East River Tunnel projects were not actually certified to inspect concrete, and that Amtrak had been paying invoices based on the testing of those non-credentialed inspectors. Such fraudulent concrete testing posed obvious risks to the safety of Amtrak’s passengers using those tunnels, and Michael pressed ahead with his investigation. But when he issued a subpoena for more information, Amtrak’s Deputy Inspector for Investigations intervened and shut down the investigation. That Deputy Inspector then issued the first negative review in Michael’s career, eliminated his Supervisory position, and terminated him after claiming he was “not qualified” to be rehired as a Special Agent.
OSHA found OIG’s “not qualified” claim was a pretext to retaliate against Michael for raising fraud and safety concerns related to the uncertified inspections of Amtrak’s tunnel concrete. OSHA ordered Amtrak to immediately reinstate Michael into his former Supervisory position and pay him $892,550 in wages, interest, emotional distress, and punitive damages. With attorney fees the total is well over $900,000. Here is the full Merit Finding in Michael DeJoseph v. NRPC. And here is OSHA’s Press Release and Twitter post.
The take away? All railroad employees and managers must know that the Federal Rail Safety Act will protect them when they raise concerns over contractor fraud or safety. This is especially important going forward, given the billions of dollars in transportation infrastructure projects sure to flow from federal and state governments in the near future. Fraud by contractors working on tunnel, bridge, highway, and railroad infrastructure projects must not be tolerated. And anyone with knowledge of such fraud should know they may be entitled to rewards in the millions of dollars if they follow the special provisions of the False Claims Act (which requires the filing of a complaint under a seal of secrecy). Here is more on whistleblower awards under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. For more on the rights of railroad whistleblowers, go to the free Rail Whistleblower Library.