Yes. Filing a safety grievance with the Union and reporting any type of unsafe working conditions is a protected activity under the FRSA whistleblower statute. Since reporting any type of unsafe working conditions is a protected activity, if the railroad retaliates against you because you’ve reported an unsafe condition, you have a right to file a claim with OSHA within 180 days of the railroad retaliating.
Retaliation takes many forms:
- The Railroad charging you with rule violations,
- The Railroad watching and testing you more than your coworkers,
- Being placed on a type of watch list or high-risk employee list, or
- Other forms of blacklisting you because you’ve reported safety issues.
The important thing to remember is that filing a safety grievance with your union and while your union is pursuing that safety grievance for you, if the railroad retaliates, you can also bring a claim under the OSHA whistleblower statute. It is a common misconception that a railroader who has been disciplined or fired must wait until his safety grievance process has been decided with the union before he or she can pursue a whistleblower case. This is incorrect and can cost railroaders their ability to bring a claim under the whistleblower statute because of the short timeframe of 180 days from the date that you know of the discipline or discrimination or retaliation.
It is important to speak with an experienced railroad attorney who can work with your union during this dual process.