Federal Rail Safety Act Subsection (c)(1) prohibits railroads from denying, delaying, or interfering with an employee’s right to prompt medical treatment for a workplace injury. In Santiago v. Metro North Railroad, the ARB held the scope of (c)(1)’s prohibition was not limited to the immediate aftermath of a workplace injury. Now, in Wever v. Montana Rail Link, the ARB overrules Santiago and limits the scope of (c)(1) protection to the temporal period immediately following an on-the-job injury:

we will no longer adhere to the interpretation of subsection (c)(1) that the Board had previously set forth in Santiago. Instead, we hold that subsection 20109(c)(1) prohibits an employer from denying, delaying, or interfering with medical treatment or first aid only in the temporal period immediately following a workplace injury. Subsection 20109(c)(1)’s provision for prompt “medical or first aid treatment” does not create a statutory right to ongoing or unlimited medical treatment of choice over the entire course of a treatment plan or recovery period for a workplace injury.

The ARB did not lay down any specific temporal limit or boundaries, noting “the determination as to what constitutes an appropriately limited temporal period will necessarily be fact-driven.” So the temporal scope of (c)(1) will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis. What is “appropriate” will depend on factors such as the nature of the employee’s injury and the local availability of treatment options for such an injury.

Here is the complete Wever decision. For more on the whistleblower rights of railroad workers, go to the free Rail Whistleblower Library.