Fired Amtrak Agent To Receive $892K For Blowing Whistle Under U.S. Rail Safety Law

Joe Biden, the now former vice president, is riding Amtrak back to Delaware today to begin his return to civilian life. Biden has long been an Amtrak supporter, riding the train daily to and from Washington and Delaware when he was in the Senate.

I think he would be pleased with the news that an Amtrak agent who was fired for helping another agent blow the whistle on safety violations has been ordered reinstated with back pay to his former job.

The total bill, including damages, is $892,000

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that national passenger rail service violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act retaliated against a supervisory special agent in its inspector general’s office when he raised concerns about railroad safety, fraud and abuse involving an Amtrak contractor and when he supported a fellow agent’s safety concerns during an internal investigation.

According to OSHA findings, in early to mid-2010, the agent was investigating an Amtrak contractor that had been convicted in a New York state court for fraud in examining and testing concrete at building projects in the New York City area. This Amtrak contractor had performed testing on certain Amtrak tunnel projects. Strongly believing it was necessary for safety and security reasons, the agent raised safety concerns regarding work performed by this contractor on Amtrak projects.

Then, in October 2010, the agent gave Amtrak’s Dispute Resolution Office information and provided support for a fellow employee who had received a letter of reprimand after he raised safety concerns in a separate matter. The following month, the agent received his first-ever negative performance review. In March 2011, Amtrak notified him that – as a part of an overall reorganization – his position was being eliminated. In the course of the next few months, the agent applied for other positions, but was told that he lacked the required law enforcement training, despite a 40-year law enforcement career that included equivalent training. In June 2011, Amtrak notified the agent that he would be terminated due to his not being placed in a new position.

Amtrak can appeal the order, but for now here is what OSHA has ordered it to do:

  • Reinstate the employee to his former or a similar position with all rights, seniority and benefits he would have received had he not been discharged.
  • Pay him a total of $892,551, which is comprised of $723,332 in back wages plus $34,218 in interest; $100,000 in punitive damages; $35,000 in compensatory damages; plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
  • Expunge from Amtrak’s records all references related to his discharge and exercise of his FRSA rights; make no adverse statements concerning his employment at Amtrak; and not retaliate or discriminate against him in any manner.
  • Post a notice to all railroad employees about their FRSA rights.

 

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