YJB Fights Intimidation of Injured Railroad Workers

By Bill Jungbauer & Ron Barczak,
Senior partners at YJB

In recent years there has been a surge of intimidation and harassment by railroads against their injured employees. Sometimes the tactics are direct and obvious: A supervisor threatens a worker with a formal investigation if the employee wants to turn in a personal injury report, or the company, in an effort to embarrass people, posts on a bulletin board or in a newsletter the names of anyone who has been injured. Other times, the intimidation is less direct but still effective; the company holds an “informal” inquiry to “help” the employee understand why he or she has an injury.

Sometimes when a person is about to fill out a personal injury report, a supervisor threatens to look back over the employee’s years of service to suggest that the worker is “accident prone” and further threatens an injury review which could result in probation or other discipline. These efforts lead to fear and hesitation to fill out personal injury reports. Railroads claim they are simply trying to improve safety and avoid injuries. The real purpose of these efforts is to lower claim payments to deserving workers and cut the number of injuries reportable to the Federal Railroad Administration. Railroads also try to keep employees from reporting injuries so they can go to Congress and boast that injuries are now declining. They do this to try to show that they have provided a safer place to work, where in reality the personal injuries are running at a higher rate than indicated because the workers are afraid to report them.

The effect of the railroad’s intimidation efforts is not safer workplaces, but unjustified firings, uncompensated injuries, and misleading accident statistics. These efforts by the railroad industry strike at the very heart of worker protection under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) They also very likely violate Section 55 of the FELA which provides, in part, “Any contract, rule, regulation or device whatsoever, the purpose or intent of which shall be to enable any common carrier to exempt itself from any liability created by this chapter, shall to that extent be void..”. Moreover, these management actions may also violate Section 60 of the FELA, which prohibits efforts to restrict access to information about accidents.

What can be done to halt these attacks on railroaders? First, work closely with your local union representatives and participate in union meetings. There is strength in numbers. Second, if you are injured, follow your railroad’s own rules and report every on the job accident, carefully noting any and all actions the railroad could have taken to prevent it from occurring. This will help show the country what is really happening. Third, if your own accident is without witnesses, immediately tell your coworkers what happened. Fourth, contact Yaeger & Jungbauer Barristers, PLC as soon as possible for free advice on how to further protect your rights.

If you are a railroad worker who has been injured on the job or has been injured in the past and you believe that the railroad has harassed you into returning to work early, or not filling out a personal injury report please contact YJB.

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.