Labor Department orders Metro-North Railroad to pay record fine over worker retaliation case

Associated Press

The Metro-North-Railroad has been ordered to pay a record fine of more than $250,000 to an employee who faced disciplinary action after he reported getting injured on the job, the U.S. Labor Department said Tuesday.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the punitive damages are the highest ever in a retaliation case under the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

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The employee is a coach cleaner in Connecticut who reported suffering a knee injury in November 2011. The railroad issued disciplinary charges against him after he reported it. He had been warned by a Metro-North supervisor who drove him to the hospital that employees who are hurt on the job are cited for safety violations and are passed over for promotions, according to the Labor Department.

The company was ordered to pay him $250,000 in punitive damages and $10,000 in compensatory damages and to cover attorney fees.

"When employees, fearing retaliation, hesitate to report work-related injuries and the safety hazards that caused them, companies cannot fix safety problems and neither employees nor the public are safe," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels said. "In this case, the Metro-North's conduct was deliberate and discriminatory, and we have assessed the maximum amount in punitive damages allowed under the law."

Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan said the railroad has made strides to promote a safety culture that encourages employees to report safety concerns without fear of retaliation.

"The Metro-North of today has zero tolerance for discipline targeted against those reporting safety violations or injuries and is expanding training for workers and supervisors on safety requirements and adherence to critical safety rules," he said.