The anti-retaliation provisions of Federal Rail Safety Act Section 20109 are indeed powerful, so powerful they cannot be waived by any disciplinary waiver or “plea bargain.” FRSA subsection (h) reads: “The rights and remedies in this section may not be waived by any agreement, policy, form, or condition of employment.” And In Montes v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, a federal judge rejected a railroad’s attempt to use a disciplinary waiver to bar the employee’s FRSA complaint:
There is no canon against using common sense in construing laws as saying what they obviously mean. The statute is clear that an employee may not waive by agreement the rights and remedies provided by Section 20109. . . . waivers under a collective bargaining agreement, signed by an employee for the conduct which forms the base of his FRSA complaint, do not bar an FRSA claim.
The judge went on to note that such disciplinary leniency agreements are not formal settlements and do not in any way affect an employee’s rights under the FRSA.
All employees should be aware that signing such waivers in order to minimize the amount of unfair discipline assessed against them does not negate their right to bring a FRSA complaint. Here is the complete Montes decision. For more on the whistleblower rights of railroad workers, go to the free Rail Whistleblower Library.