Have You Been Injured on the Job? Harassed or Disciplined Because of It?

HERE IS WHAT TO DO.

By William J. Jungbauer
Senior Partners at YJB

As every railroad worker knows, over the past several years incidents of harassment and intimidation arising from on-the-job injuries have reached epidemic proportions. This has been part of a concerted effort by the railroad industry to cover up major safety problems. Tragically, these problems are now fully coming to light, most notably on the Union Pacific, where seven employees had been killed over several months.

We here at YJB were the first to see this coming. In the early 1990's we spoke of it to general chairmen across the country. In 1995 we addressed it in the Yaeger Report. In that same year we hired a full-time attorney to do nothing but take phone calls, draft affidavits, and help individuals document their harassment experiences. This was an effort to provide documentation for concerned United States Senators, Representatives and judges throughout the land. Although these initial efforts proved frustrating, because the railroads' harassment was successfully keeping workers from coming forward, we, along with the farsighted leadership of our unions, did ultimately get the attention of the federal government.

As reported earlier in the Yaeger Report, the FRA finally developed anti-harassment regulations. Those new regulations provide generally that railroads must have an Internal Control Plan prohibiting harassment of employees to keep them from either reporting injuries or seeking medical care. These regulations also provide for a series of fines, including fines of individual railroad officers who participate in the harassment and intimidation. Over the past few months, the FRA has been holding meetings at various railroads to educate management and unions on these new regulations.

It should be noted that Sections 55 and 60 of the Federal Employers' Liability Act have always provided monetary fines for railroad behavior which, by design and impact, attempted to shield the railroad from its liability under the FELA. Unfortunately, use of those provisions by the government has been spotty at best.

With the anti-harassment and intimidation regulations in place, it is now time to put them into action. Accompanying this article is a form for the reporting of harassment and intimidation. The form is generally self-explanatory and, as noted in the lower left corner, provides directions that it be mailed to the regional FRA office, the union state legislative director, the general chairperson, and the local chairperson.

In general, the more specific information the better. Thus, under the circumstances of harassment and intimidation section, you should note the date, time and place where the incident took place and the names of any witnesses. Be aware that harassment may take many forms. For example, it can include threatening discipline if somebody fills out a personal injury report, or refusing to let an injured worker see a doctor, or even a supervisor violating the physician/patient privilege by talking with doctors and nurses in an attempt to control medical treatment. Essentially, anything that interferes with the reporting of an accident or with the receiving of proper medical care can be considered harassment and intimidation.

An injured worker should always be sure to consult with his or her local chairperson about the filling out of the harassment/intimidation report. In addition to making copies as listed above, you should always keep a copy for yourself. Be sure to also keep copies of the initial personal injury report and any other important documents. These might include photographs, investigation transcripts, and drawings of the accident scene. You should be sure to list the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident or who has knowledge of it.

Remember, with any personal injury question, you can always call on YJB for free initial advice at 1-800-435-7888.

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.