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FRSA Overview


49 U.S.Code Section 20109 provides whistleblower protection for railroad employees. This is a tool that protects employees, contractors and subcontractors of railroad carriers from retaliation should they engage in "protected activity," such as reporting certain safety and security violations to the railroad or the government.

Protected activities include:

  • Reports of violation of federal law
  • Report of hazardous condition
  • Report of safety or security conditions
  • Furnish information to the FRA, NTSB or Homeland Security
  • Refuse to violate federal law or regulation
  • Refuse to work under hazardous conditions
  • Reporting a work-related personal injury

Also, a railroad violates the FRSA if it attempts to deny, delay, or interfere with medical treatment of a work-related injury. Likewise, a railroad may not discipline or threaten to discipline an employee for following a treatment plan set out by a treating physician.

Employers Are Not Allowed To Retaliate

The FRSA protects employees engaging in protected activities from adverse personnel actions including:

  • Termination or lay off
  • Blacklisting
  • Demotion
  • Denying overtime or promotion
  • Disciplining
  • Denying benefits
  • Failing to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation
  • Reassignment
  • Reducing pay or hours

The remedies available to a railroad employee include entitlements to all damages necessary to make him whole, including but not limited to voiding or expunging the discipline, reinstatement with all rights restored, back pay with interest, compensatory damages including mental distress and economic losses, punitive damages up to $250,000, and attorney fees and costs.

How To Bring A Whistleblower Claim

To bring a claim, the employee must file a FRSA complaint with the OSHA Whistleblower Office within 180 days of the railroad's adverse action. OSHA will assign an investigator to collect witness statements and relevant documentation. OSHA then issues a written decision regarding a violation occurred and orders remedies. A railroad has 30 days to comply with the order or appeal to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)for an evidentiary hearing. Appeals from the ALJ decision go to the Administrative Review Board in Washington, DC. In the event that OSHA has not issued a final decision within 210 days, the employee has the right to file the case in the Federal District Court for a jury trial on all issues.

Title 49 Library

  • Title 49
  • Federal Rail Safety Act
  • The New FRSA Decision
  • Rail Injury Investigation
  • FRSA Decision Regarding Norfolk Southern

Legal Support In Whistleblower Cases

If you would like to consult with an attorney to see if your activity is protected by the FRSA, call our offices. Based in Atlanta, we assist rail workers throughout the United States. You can call Steel & Moss LLP at 866-551-7480 or contact us online. Initial consultations are always free.