Union Pacific is ordered to pay more than $615,000 in whistleblower case

The Union Pacific Railroad has been found in violation of federal whistleblower protection laws and has been ordered to pay more than $615,000 in damages to three workers, including two from Kansas City.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the Omaha-based railroad company wrongfully fired two of the employees and suspended one in retaliation for reporting workplace safety concerns and an injury.

“Union Pacific Railroad has created a climate of fear instead of a climate of safety,” David Michaels, assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said in a statement.

OSHA offices in Kansas City and San Francisco did the investigation. The penalties include $400,000 in punitive damages and more than $90,000 in back wages.

Union Pacific said it planned to appeal the decision.

“The OSHA findings are inconsistent with the facts and ignore provisions of our collective bargaining agreements,” said spokesman Mark Davis.

According to the Labor Department, a Kansas City-based conductor was terminated in September 2010 after making “repeated complaints” to the company’s hotline about safety concerns, such as missing and obstructed roadway signs, and for noting that a supervisor violated safety procedures during a field test.

The railroad also cited the conductor for having a tattoo that it determined was creating a hostile work environment. The conductor received the tattoo, which commemorates his military service, before joining the railroad in 2004, the Labor Department said.

Another Kansas City conductor was suspended without pay for five days last November after complaining several times to the company’s hotline about rough spots on the track.

The third railroad employee, a locomotive engineer based in Tucson, Ariz., was let go after reporting a workplace injury.

Union Pacific also was ordered to offer training on whistleblower rights.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/08/26/3102135/union-pacific-is-ordered-to-pay.html#ixzz1WNG4nd4r

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