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OSHA Orders RR to Pay $18,830 for Interfering /w/ Worker's Medical Treatment

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  • OSHA Orders RR to Pay $18,830 for Interfering /w/ Worker's Medical Treatment

    OSHA Orders Railroad to Pay $18,830 for Interfering with Worker's Medical Treatment

    OSHA found that the railroad, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, interfered with the worker's medical treatment and forced him to work in violation of his physician's orders.
    Mar 16, 2012


    An investigation by OSHA has determined that Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. violated the employee protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act when it took retaliatory action against an employee at its Harmon Diesel Shop in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., who reported a workplace injury. OSHA found that the railroad, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, interfered with the worker's medical treatment and forced him to work in violation of his physician's orders.

    The employee, a laborer, injured his finger on June 26, 2009, and reported it to management, who first attempted to dissuade him from seeking medical treatment. The worker received sutures at a nearby hospital, where he was instructed to not use his hand until the sutures healed, and to keep the hand clean and dry. The railroad's occupational health service determined that the injury disqualified the worker from duty, but the facilities director of the diesel shop persuaded the health service to change the worker's status to restricted duty. The worker's personal physician excused him from work until the sutures were removed and supplied written notice that he should not lift heavy objects or immerse his hands in chemicals, actions he performed in the normal course of his duties. In spite of these instructions and the employee's restricted work status, management ordered him back to work and required him to perform these duties.

    "Metro-North's actions in this case are unacceptable and send a message of intimidation to its workforce," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Railroad employees must be free to report injuries without fear that their employers will harass them, ignore medical instructions, or force them to work under conditions that could impair the healing process or cause more harm."

    OSHA has ordered Metro-North to pay $10,000 in punitive damages to the worker and $8,830 in attorney's fees, and to expunge any adverse references relating to the employee's exercise of his FRSA rights from his personnel, safety, and department files. Metro-North also must post an OSHA notice for employees in the Harmon Diesel Shop and on its internal website, and provide all diesel shop employees with information on employee protections for reporting work-related injuries.
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  • #2
    I would have loved to see the amount have been 10 times that much.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Dumptrucking View Post
      I would have loved to see the amount have been 10 times that much.
      I understand what you are saying. Though not in the administrative ruling arena, courts, including the US Supreme court, have been wrestling with "what are the constitutional limits of punitive damages". For example, is it ok to have 1 times punitive versus actual [1:1]; 2 times? [1:2] 100 times? [1:100]

      This case looks like the judge may have considered the attorneys fees as the actual damage amount and awarded just over 1 to 1 ratio.

      But, all that said, one of the elements [goals] of punitive damages is to deter future similar conduct. I hardly doubt this amount of money will get the attention of the railroad company. Nevertheless, it is a great ruling for the good guys and does serve as a precedent for other workers.
      Steve Gordon
      Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P.
      FELA Lawyer
      FELA Lawyer Blog
      Serving Injured Railroad Employees Nationwide
      Call for a FELA Lawyer 24/7/365
      800-773-6770

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      • #4
        Limits....well, on actual damages....the actual damage is what it is....never mind that even a CPA would never get down to a penny....but punitive damages must absolutely punish. 10 large wouldn't make Metro-North even flinch. 10 million might make them take notice. There must be visible remorse, and permanent change, else nothing worthwhile has been done.
        sigpic ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ "Come and get them" Leonidas I to Xerxes, at Battle of Thermopylae

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