OSHA has ordered Union Pacific Railroad to pay $51,000 in punitive damages and back pay to an employee who, despite federal whistleblower protection, was suspended for refusing to delete from his cell phone video footage of an air compressor safety inspection.
The employee deemed the equipment unsafe and unusable; days after being overruled by a supervisor, he informed management he had sent the footage to the Federal Railroad Administration. “Recording safety inspections on locomotives is protected by federal law,” says Ken Atha, OSHA regional administrator in San Francisco. “Workplace protections, such as these, ensure transparency, accountability, and freedom to raise safety concerns in the workplace without fear of retaliation.”
In addition to payment of punitive damages and back wages, OSHA ordered UP to amend its policy of banning cell phone recordings of work safety activities. The agency contends that the incident marks the 11th time in the past four years UP has violated Federal Railroad Safety Action whistleblower protection provisions.