Frequently Asked Questions
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What Damages Can Railroad Workers Recover in a FRSA Lawsuit?
Depending on the facts of his or her case, a person who suffers retaliation for reporting unsafe or illegal practices can request reinstatement/rehiring, back pay, lost future earnings, monetary damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.
OSHA handles investigations into Federal Railroad Safety Act complaints. To pursue a claim, a railroad employee, contractor or subcontractor must file a claim within 180 days of when a retaliatory action such as firing or demotion occurred. A FRSA claim succeeds when evidence shows that the retaliatory action followed from the report of unsafe or illegal practices.
How Does FRSA Protect Railroad Workers?
According to a factsheet distributed by OSHA, the Federal Railroad Safety Act, or FRSA, exists to ensure that “individuals working for railroad carriers and their contractors and subcontractors are protected from retaliation for reporting potential safety or security violations to their employers or to the government.”
Protected activities under FRSA include, but are not limited to,
- Reporting injuries
- Reporting unsafe conditions and practices
- Filing claims for injury or illness compensation and damages
- Refusing to perform dangerous tasks without proper safeguards
- Assisting with an investigation into unsafe conditions and practices
- Assisting with investigations into alleged violations of laws and regulations
- Refusing orders to violate laws or regulations
Because of FELA, no one who performs any work for a railroad corporation can be fired, demoted, reassigned, threatened or disciplined for engaging in protected activities. A company that does retaliate against a whistleblower can be sued for reinstatement, lost wages and monetary damages.
- Railroads Must Protect Employees From Injuries by Inspecting, Properly Equipping Locomotives and Rail Cars
- What, Exactly, Is the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)?
- Don’t Send Danger Down the Line: Report Safety Issues on Trains and in Rail Yards
How Does FELA Protect Railroad Workers?
The Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA, gives railroad employees who get injured on the job or develop occupational illnesses to hold rail companies accountable for failing to protect them. Families of railroad employees who die in work-related accidents or succumb to occupational illnesses like cancer, lung disease or mesothelioma also have rights to file wrongful death claims under FELA.
FELA is often compared to workers’ compensation, but the claims process works much differently. Rail companies are only held liable to pay compensation and damages if evidence exists that their executives or managers acted negligently. FELA claims often go to trial, so railroad workers or their family members can benefit from partnering with a personal injury or wrongful death attorney who has experience handling FELA cases.