Due to the number of whistleblower complaints in the railroad industry with a high percentage of retaliation allegations, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and OSHA have signed a memorandum agreement that will facilitate the coordination and cooperation of workers’ whistleblower rights.
From 2007 to 2012, more than 900 whistleblower complaints were reported by OSHA and almost 63 percent involved some sort of allegation of retaliation. Although the FRA has a broad authority over rail safety, it does not have direct authority to address whistleblower incidents. It is the Federal Railroad Safety Act’s (FRSA) whistleblower provision act that protects railroad employees from retaliation when they report safety violations, or work-related personal injuries or illness.
The memorandum established procedures to follow complaints any allegations. The FRA will refer railroad employees who complain of retaliation to OSHA. OSHA will then provide the FRA with the copies it receives under the FRSA’s whistleblower provision. In turn, both agencies will work together to assist FRA enforcement staff in recognizing complaints and assist OSHA enforcement staff in recognizing potential violations of railroad safety regulations found in investigations.
“This memorandum is a watershed moment for both railroads and labor alike,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. He continued, “Securing a process that protects employees who report safety violations is critical to maintaining safety standards in the workplace.”
For more information on FRSA and other industry whistleblower cases, visit http://www.whistleblowers.gov/wb_news_room.html.