In a unanimous opinion, the United States Supreme Court today put an end to the bogus idea that whistleblower employees have to prove “intentional retaliation.”

The question in Murray v. UBS Securities LLC was whether whistleblower protection statutes such as the Federal Rail Safety Act require employees to prove “intentional retaliation” in addition to the usual contributory factor element. The Court held that while whistleblowers bear the burden of proving their protected activity was a contributing factor in the unfavorable personnel action alleged in the complaint, they are NOT required to make some further showing that their employer acted with “retaliatory intent.”

The Court’s decision overturns the line of FRSA cases that started with Kuduk, surgically removing the “retaliatory intent” cancer that had spread among various Circuits and the Administrative Review Board. It is bad news for railroads but great news for rail workers who report safety hazards, injuries, or violations of FRA regulations.

The Supreme Court concluded its opinion by reminding railroads that

the contributing-factor framework that Congress chose here is not as protective of employers as a motivating-factor framework. That is by design. Congress has employed the contributing-factor framework in contexts where the health, safety, or well-being of the public may well depend on whistleblowers feeling empowered to come forward. This Court cannot override that policy choice by giving employers more protection than the statute itself provides.

Here is the full text of Murray v. UBS. For more on the rights of railroad whistleblowers, go to the free Rail Whistleblower Library