Injured on the Railroad, Then Harassed or Intimidated?
IT'S AGAINST THE LAW
It's all too common a story: a railroader gets injured, perhaps by throwing a poorly maintained switch, and when filling out a personal injury report, is threatened with an investigation. Or at the hospital, the doctor wants to prescribe a pain killer but the supervisor says he/she cannot have it. These are some ways railroad management coerces injured railroad workers not to report their injuries.
Railroads have long engaged in this kind of misconduct in order to discourage workers from reporting injuries and receiving proper medical care and thereby making it difficult for injured workers to receive the fair compensation they are entitled to under the FELA.
In 1997 the FRA finally enacted regulations to protect injured railroad workers from this kind of harassment. The key regulation involves the Internal Control Plan or ICP. Each railroad must publish and distribute an ICP, stating that "harassment or intimidation of any person calculated to prevent that person from receiving proper medical attention or reporting accidents or injuries will not be tolerated and will result in discipline of the harasser."
A copy of the ICP is to be provided to every railroad employee, supervisor and manager. In addition, the railroad must have a procedure in place to investigate complaints and discipline employees or managers who violate the policy. Railroads and/or managers may be fined up to $5,000 for harassment or for failing to accurately report accidents and injuries. The railroad must notify each employee of its procedure for handling such complaints. Finally, the railroad must provide "whistle blower" protection to any employee who reports harassment or other violations of the ICP.
These new regulations recognize that railroads' past "disciplinary" policies have been little more than thinly disguised attempts to intimidate and harass employees into not reporting their physical injuries. Unfortunately, many railroaders with serious injuries did not receive the medical care they desperately need as a result.
Report to your local chairperson if any of the following happen to you:
- Verbal threats that if one were to fill out a Personal Injury Report "on my watch" that you are going to be investigated and could be disciplined.
- That supervisors have indicated that perhaps a person does not need to take prescription medication but can get along with some over-the-counter drugs to not have a reportable injury.
- Supervisors have made it clear that if you are injured on the job and report it, that there will be an investigation (regardless of any alleged rule violations); that you will be asked to do a re-enactment; that you will be asked to have a separate "conference" immediately with your supervisor without representation of a legal or union representative.
- Supervisors have insisted that they go into the Emergency Room with the injured employee and have intervened, without patient permission, with treating doctors concerning diagnosis and proper care.
With your union and attorney, you can bring these matters to the attention of the FRA.
If you are injured in an accident, do not let your managers or supervisors dissuade you from filing a personal injury report as soon as possible after the injury occurs. If you are not near a terminal or other place where you can report your injury, tell your co-workers what happened, and report the injury as soon as possible. Fill out the personal injury report as completely and accurately as you can, noting every piece of equipment and/or tools that you were working with and any dangerous conditions that might have contributed to your injury or made your work difficult or unsafe. Most importantly, get prompt attention from your own doctor.
Finally, if you face any intimidation or harassment when you attempt to report your injury or later, contact your local chairperson for advice in reporting the matter to the FRA. Whenever you face an on-the-job injury or harassment, the attorneys at YJB can provide you the help you need to protect your legal rights.
The FELA lawyers of Yaeger & Jungbauer Barristers, PLC invite you to contact their office for further discussion of this topic. This article is designed for general information only and should be considered neither formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer client relationship.