Protection From Threats And Retaliatory Acts By The Railroads
Written by Gary F. Babiarz

For the average worker whom becomes injured on-the-job, it’s a simple matter reporting the injury. He's not afraid. There’s no hesitation, no worrying. He knows his employer is going to take care of him. The employee is even encouraged to report the injury and receive medical care.

For railroaders, that’s not the case. An injured railroader might hear:

“Why don’t you wait a few days, see how you feel. Maybe you won’t need to report the injury.”

“You don’t want to report the injury and ruin the safety record for everyone.”

“You report the injury, there’ll be an investigation…”

(Ironically, not timely reporting an injury is breaking a railroad rule. Break a rule, you can be brought up for investigation.)


So, why the difference? Railroad workers are not covered by Worker’s Compensation. If you suffer a railroad work injury, you have to prove your employer, the railroad, was negligent and caused your work injury. If you cannot prove the railroad was negligent, you will not receive compensation. Savings over safety.

What else motivates the railroads to discourage employees from reporting injuries? If you report an injury, it has to report an injury – to the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”). Although, one of the FRA’s functions is to improve railroad safety, the railroads don’t want to report injuries to the FRA. Savings over safety.

It’s hard to imagine, almost inconceivable - an employer threatening to fire an employee for reporting an injury. Yet railroads do this every day and get away with it. Savings over safety.

That’s why Section 20109 of the Federal Rail Safety Act is so important. Railroaders have protection from threats and retaliatory acts by the railroads under Section 20109 – sometimes known as the ‘Whistleblower Act.’ Sadly, many railroaders either don’t know about these protections or don’t understand them. Some railroaders have even referred to it as the “Narc Law.” It’s anything but! The Whistleblower Act is there for the protection and safety of all railroaders. If enough railroaders stand up against the railroads for breaking the law, perhaps the railroads will start truly putting safety first and making a safer work environment for all railroad employees.

Recently, Hoey & Farina reported on the OSHA decision in Kopplin v. Wisconsin Central. We are pleased to report on Steve Winkler v. BNSF, as well. Please read through these OSHA decisions to learn more about how to prove whistleblower retaliation:



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