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Norfolk Southern Railway Co. was ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay more than $300,000 to a Chattanooga railroad worker who blew the whistle after a job injury, according to a news release.

The DeButts Yard, the Norfolk Southern railway switching yard in Chattanooga. Photo Credit by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The case involved a worker who suffered an injury when he hit his hard hat against a horizontal support beam. Norfolk Southern conducted their own investigation charging the employee with falsifying his injury and then fired him Oct. 8, 2010, according to the release.

The employee appealed, and a Public Law Board upheld the railroad’s decision while reducing the termination to a suspension with no back pay.

OSHA found that the railroad’s investigative hearing “was severely flawed and orchestrated to intentionally support management’s decision to terminate the employee.”

According to an article at Times Free Press, the employee will receive $200,000 in punitive damages, $75,000 in compensatory damages and $25,123.40 in attorney’s fees. Norfolk Southern must expunge the worker’s disciplinary record and notify and train employees about their whistleblower protection rights under the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

D’Aquino’s release said the department has issued several other orders to Norfolk Southern in the past year related to retaliating against workers for reporting work-related injuries.

Cindy A. Coe, OSHA regional administrator, said workers “have the right to report an injury without fear of retaliation.” Either party to this case can file an appeal to the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

Posted by Gordon, Elias & Seely, a FELA lawyer and railroad injury lawyer blog that publishes train accidents and FELA legal news from across the United States.

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