FRA Responds to Railroad Intimidation Tactics

Responding to mounting concerns about the harassment and intimidation of railroad workers (see Winter 1995 Yaeger Report), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued new regulations set to take effect on January 1, 1997.

The new regulations require railroads to adopt a detailed Internal Control Plan (ICP) which specifically prohibits the carrier from threatening or harassing its employees. The cornerstone of the ICP is a statement in clear and unmistakable language that provides “Harassment or intimidation of any person that is calculated to discourage or prevent such person from receiving proper medical treatment or from reporting an accident, incident, injury or illness will not be permitted or tolerated and will result in disciplinary action against such person committing the harassment or intimidation.

All railroad employees must be provided with a copy of the ICP. Any employee complaining about a violation of the anti-harassment policy must be afforded “whistle blower” protection. Moreover, these new regulations make harassment and intimidation unlawful and provide that a railroad and/or its managers may be fined up to $5,000.00 for harassment or failing to accurately report accidents.

In a statement announcing the new regulations, the FRA said, “The Federal Railroad Administration wants to make it clear to all railroads that it will be diligent in its efforts to ensure that all parties adhere to and comply with the intimidation and harassment policy of the ICP. It should be noted that the FRA will be aggressive in pursuing enforcement sanctions against any person found to be in violation of the railroads’ harassment and intimidation policy.”

Requiring railroads to adopt the ICP is not the only change the Federal Railroad Administration has made to the regulations. The new regulations also provide for improved reporting of accidents and incidents by railroads. As of January 1, 1997, railroads must report all injuries and illnesses to a rail worker that arise from the operation of the railroad and cause the employee to be examined or treated by a qualified health care professional. In the future, railroads will be required to notify an employee if he or she is determined to be a contributing cause to an accident. Furthermore, the railroad is required to post a listing of all injuries and occupational illnesses which occur in any specific location.

The enactment of the new FRA regulations constitutes a victory in improving the railroad workplace through tighter regulation of employer actions and improved communication regarding hazardous conditions inherent in the workplace. The ICP regulation in particular establishes that the railroads’ past disciplinary policies have been recognized for what they truly were: intimidation and harassment techniques designed to reduce the number of reportable injuries. The FRA’s stated commitment to ensuring the railroads comply with the ICP is a significant step in removing intimidation and harassment from the workplace.

We at YJB urge all railroaders to carefully study the ICP of their company and to work closely with their union representatives to ensure compliance.

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.