On February 28, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a press release stating it was fining Virginia-based Norfolk Southern Railway Co. $1,121,099 after the company allegedly violated the whistleblower statutes of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. Two of the investigations, which were conducted by OSHA agents, discovered that three workers for commodity transporter were terminated following their decision to report workplace injuries. Along with paying the fine, Norfolk Southern has also been ordered to clear the disciplinary records of the three employees and hang safety posters and notices around the office regarding whistleblower protection rights.
According to OSHA's website, one of the investigations focused on a crane operator in Indiana who reported that his eye was damaged while on the job. Norfolk Southern fired him on in August 2010 after administrators concluded that his representation of the events that led to the injury was false.
The last two employees, both of whom were based in western Pennsylvania, were allegedly fired because the management team at Norfolk Southern deemed the reports they filed related to their injuries to be untrue. OSHA's press release revealed that the two men were involved in an accident that caused minor shoulder stiffness and soreness. They said they did not need to seek medical treatment, but later changed their minds when the pain became more acute. After they visited a local hospital, the workers were terminated.
"The Labor Department continues to find serious whistleblower violations at Norfolk Southern, and we will be steadfast in our defense of a worker's right to a safe job – including his or her right to report injuries," declared acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris. "When workers can't report safety concerns on the job without fear of retaliation, worker safety and health suffer, which costs working families and businesses alike."
This isn't the first time that OSHA has fined Norfolk Southern. Over the past two years, the railway company has been cited on multiple occasions for firing employees who have reported injuries that occurred within the workplace.
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