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Railroad firm ordered to pay damages after whistleblower investigation

Posted On: Jan. 3, 2017 9:23 AM CST

BNSF Railway train

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered BNSF Railway Co. to pay more than $147,000 in back wages and damages after firing a track inspector for insubordination after the employee reported railroad track defects to management.

OSHA’s investigation found that the Fort Worth, Texas-based company’s termination of the unnamed former employee constituted retaliation in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act — one of the 22 federal statutes whose whistleblower provisions the agency is responsible for enforcing.

"BNSF employees have the right to protect their safety and that of other employees and the public without fear of retaliation by their employer," Gregory Baxter, regional OSHA administrator in Denver, said in a statement on Dec. 28. "Our investigation and our actions on this worker's behalf underscores the agency's commitment to take vigorous action to protect workers' rights."

“BNSF disagrees with the findings and plans to appeal them," Mike Trevino, a BNSF spokesperson, said in an emailed statement.