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NORTH PLATTE, NE – A railroad worker who was injured on the job and then fired by Union Pacific for reporting a work-related injury has been rehired by the company in North Platte, NE.

Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska where Union Pacific fired railroad worker, Brian Petersen.

North Platte is in Lincoln County, Nebraska in the central part of the state about 225 miles west of Lincoln and 142 miles west of Grand Island.

A railroad worker reported a work-related injury and his employer, Union Pacific, fired him in retaliation. That’s how an OSHA judge saw it and as a result, imposed a $213,000 fine on the railroad company and ordered it to rehire the fired employee. Union Pacific is planning to appeal the decision.

On Friday, April 8, 2011, a judge for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) made the ruling. A year and a half earlier, 26 year-old Brian Petersen was fired from his job at Bailey Yard in North Platte, NE.

Location of Bailey Yard in North Platte, NE where Brian Petersen was fired from his job.

The North Platte Bulletin website reported on the story:

After a lengthy investigation, OSHA Regional Administrator Charles Adkins ruled Friday that Petersen was unfairly singled out. He noted that Petersen was suspended just one day after reporting the injury.

Petersen, an apprentice machinist, was working for Union Pacific for 4 years at the time when he was injured on August 28, 2009. In the parking lot on that day his foot was accidentally run over by another Union Pacific employee. He reported the incident and was treated by the company nurse.

The next day he and the driver of the car received a two-week suspension for the incident and an 18-month probation for not being alert or taking needed precautions. This was the first time he was ever disciplined by the company.

The North Platte Bulletin article goes on to say:

Four days later, Petersen was fired for standing on two bearings in the run-though building, stretching to read the serial numbers of some stacked traction motors. Standing on the bearings was a common practice, but no other employees were written up for doing so, according to the OSHA ruling. But, Petersen was fired effective Sept. 11, four days earlier.

The OSHA judge could see that the railroad company zeroed in on Petersen because:

  • He was suspended just one day after reporting the injury.
  • He was unfairly charged with a top level safety violation even though he had never been disciplined before.
  • No one else was disciplined for standing on bearings in the run-through shop.

The judge, OSHA Regional Administrator Charles Adkins, ordered Union Pacific to pay Petersen back wages with interest along with medical costs, moving expenses and $10,000 for pain and suffering. Petersen was also awarded $75,000 in punitive damages, as well as attorney fees of almost $17,000.

According to the North Platte Bulletin article, Petersen’s lawyer believes that the managers at the railroad company don’t want railroad workers to report injuries because their bonuses are tied to work safety records.

Nebraska personal injury lawyer search:
Lincoln personal injury lawyer

Published by FELA lawyer news blog at Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP

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