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Protecting workers from retaliation after reporting injuries: a PA case

Employers are not supposed to retaliate against employees for filing workers' compensation claims or reporting workplace injuries. In Pennsylvania and across the country, however, workers naturally worry that employers will hold it against them for bringing a work comp claim after suffering an injury or reporting safety violations.

Fortunately, there are ways to hold employers accountable for retaliation. In a recent case involving Pennsylvania, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has taken action against a railroad company for illegally firing three workers who expressed concern about safety issues.

On February 28, OSHA announced that it ordered the Norfolk Southern Railway Co. to pay more than $1.1 million in compensation and punitive damages for the illegal firings. Two of the three workers were from Pennsylvania. The wrongful firings came to light after OSHA received two whistleblower complaints.

In the Pennsylvania case, a welder and a welder's helper were fired after they got hurt in a vehicle accident while in a company truck. After initially refusing medical treatment, the two workers eventually went to a hospital. The railroad contended that they committed misconduct by making false injury reports.

OSHA found, however, that the two Pennsylvania employees had been fired for properly reporting their injuries to Norfolk Southern. After making this determination, OSHA ordered the railroad to pay the two men a total of $683,508.

This amount included compensatory damages and punitive damages against the employer. It also included lost wages and benefits, as well as out-of-pocket expenses.

The case shows, then, that employers who retaliate against workers for reporting injuries or making safety complaints can be held accountable.

Source: "OSHA Orders $1.1 Million in Damages Against Norfolk After FRSA Complaints," Bloomberg BNA, Michael Bologna, 3-7-13

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post in Pennsylvania. To learn more about our practice, please visit our main workers' compensation page.

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