Metro-North Railroad, with ties to New Jersey, was on the wrong side of a jury verdict that awarded an injured man more than $1 million in punitive damages. There were actually two components to this lawsuit: (1) the worker was injured in a workplace accident when a rail tie fell on his foot and broke his big toe; and (2) the worker was subsequently fired for reporting the injury.
Workplace accidents are frequently more complicated than other personal injury accidents because the accident often also involves the injured party’s job that is being used to support his or her family. Employers can often place pressure upon the worker not to bring such a suit or to report unsafe conditions by threatening to fire the worker from his job.
In this circumstance, the Federal Rail Safety Act makes it illegal for an employer to fire a worker for reporting violations of law or workplace safety. Such federal regulations are common for all types of professions. Unfortunately, employers often disregard such laws in the hopes that employees will never bring a lawsuit out of fear of retaliation or because of unfamiliarity with such federal regulations.
Because workplace injuries are so complicated and can involve something as important as an individual’s job, injured workers may wish to consult with attorneys if they believe that their employer is not treating them fairly. Retaliation at the workplace is all too common and the employee may be under the impression that they are in a no-win situation when such retaliation does take place.
Here, the railroad apparently tried to blame the injured worker for how the accident occurred. However, an OSHA investigation revealed that little training was likely provided to the injured worker in the use of the jack, and that the worksite was insufficiently lit which may have contributed to the accident.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Metro-North worker wins $1M in injury lawsuit,” March 22, 2012