Whether you’ve been on the railroad thirty days or thirty years, I am sure you have come to the realization that railroad’s policy is to use discipline to control their employees.
You have heard it said many times among the rank and file, “It’s the only place in the world where the railroad tries to fire you from the day they hire you.” Nowhere is the railroad’s heavy-handed tactics more apparent than in its dealings with the injured employee.
In the past several years most railroads have developed a pattern where it has become the norm, rather that the exception, to charge the injured employee and hold a disciplinary hearing. More often than not these hearings result in excessive discipline or dismissal. Now I wish there was a fool-proof plan that would guarantee that the railroad could not fire you if you reported an on the job injury. But I’m not Peter Pan and this ain’t Never, Never Land so I can only tell you straight up: the railroad can charge you with anything (bogus or not), then hold a hearing and discipline or dismiss you. Your only recourse is the grievance procedure and arbitration. The grievance procedure and arbitration system works, but the process can take years. The railroads know this and use it to their advantage. Together with the fact that the railroads do not have to compensate you while you are off work with an on the job injury, they can maneuver into a good bargaining position with regards to your injury claim. If you are HURT, BROKE, AND FIRED the railroad can force you into a less than equitable settlement by dangling your job, your livelihood, in front of you.
There are two serious allegations the railroads typically use to charge injured employees. By being aware of them you will be in better position to counter the railroads underhanded tactics.
Fraudulent Injury Reports
The first allegation the railroads typically use against injured employees is a charge of “filing a fraudulent injury report”. The injured railroader is usually conned into doing this by his own actions. Beware of this tactic and how the railroads use it. For example the employee is injured and he tries to comply with rule by promptly reporting it to his supervisor. But before the report is filled out the supervisor says to the injured employee, “You really don’t want to report this do you? Why don’t you see if you’re alright tomorrow? If your not, you can report it then. Why don’t you just mark off sick it’s not worth the hassle? You know there will be an investigation, are you sure your want to report this? Hey, if you report this, you won’t get your safety jacket.” This is all fine and dandy if the injury turns out to be a bump or bruise. But what happens if two days after the incident the employee can’t get out of bed and the injury turns out to be serious? Believe me, the supervisor will have a sudden memory loss. Your lay off record will show “sick” instead of “injured” and you’ll look like a liar without any evidence to support your claim. At worst, the employee is charged with filing a fraudulent report, and at best, he is charged with filing a late report. Avoid this situation by just complying with the railroad’s rule and promptly fill out the accident/injury report. Always remember, when filling out the accident report, make sure to include the unsafe conditions or defects that caused your injury.
False and Conflicting Statements
The second serious allegation that the railroads use against an injured employee is a charge of “giving false and conflicting statements”. The railroads derive this charge by bombarding the unprepared injured employee from every direction. For example, the supervisor may ask the injured employee to explain what happened in the presence of another supervisor as both supervisors write their version of what the employee said. So remember, always try to have a railroad union officer or co-employee present when being interviewed by one or more railroad officials.
The railroad may ask the injured to do a reenactment. When asked to do a reenactment, inform your supervisor that you are uncomfortable doing a reenactment out of fear of further injury due to the unsafe condition. Also, ask the railroad to contact your railroad union officer and have him present. Finally, be aware that the claim agent will ask for a recorded statement concerning your injury. You are not required to give a statement to a claim agent. So the railroad now has your filed injury report, your recorded statement, and its version of the reenactment and recollections of the employee’s comments. With this information the railroad will find some inconsistencies and develop a charge against the injured employee.
Therefore, when injured comply with the railroad’s rules and do the following:
- Promptly report the injury on the proper form and keep a copy of it.
- Seek prompt medical attention.
- Contact Designated Legal Counsel, Hoey & Farina, at 1-888-425-1212.
- Doing a reenactment.
- Giving a statement to the claim agent.
- And always when dealing with railroad officials, never disobey a direct order.
After you are injured, avoid falling prey to the railroad’s underhanded tactics, be aware of its methods and follow the advice given. Protect yourself before you are injured by obtaining enough disability insurance to cover all your economic needs in case you are off injured. Also contact your railroad union and obtain out of service insurance in case you are dismissed. Then if you’re off of work because of an injury or dismissal, your bills will get paid. You will then be in a position to let your union protect your job while your lawyers protect your injury claim. All you will have to worry about is getting well and back to work, instead of being HURT, BROKE AND FIRED.