Federal OSHA ordered Union Pacific Railroad to give the welder his original job back, repay the welder for all the time and mileage he spent commuting to the second job he was transferred to, pay his attorney fees and pay him compensatory damages.
OSHA doesn’t release the names of employee-whistleblowers, but here’s what we do know about the situation: the employee was a welder based in Beverly, Iowa, who worked on repairing railroad tracks for Union Pacific Railroad. You’ve heard the old adage that you’re never supposed to stop on railroad tracks, right? Well that’s exactly where this welder spent his work day — sitting on railroad tracks. It’s dangerous work.
So one day he is particularly concerned about on-coming trains. In fact he goes to his Track Manager and asks for a lookout. “Hey, while I’m looking down at my welding torch could we have someone there looking out for trains?”
“Well, here’s some ideas for some tools that would make the welding job more safe.”
“You can’t have them.”
So what happens to this employee for speaking up? He’s rewarded with a hostile work environment. A retaliatory, illegal hostile work environment. In fact the Track Manager was so mad at the welder that the Track Manager tried to terminate the employee by eliminating his position, and forcing him to quit or accept a welder job that was further away — 131 miles (over two hours driving) further away in Marshalltown, Iowa.
But our welder didn’t cave in. He fought back against his bully boss and filed a complaint with OSHA. He kept his job, made the horrible commute, and argued to OSHA that the job transfer created a hostile work environment in retaliation for raising safety concerns. There was an investigation, a hearing, and the bully boss lost.
The OSHA investigator concluded that the Track Manager acted illegally when he eliminated the welder’s position and forced him to chose between resigning or taking a job two hours away. The investigator noted that the manager’s actions not only made the welder’s work day longer and his commute more expensive, but the change also “took him away from his family for extended periods of time.”
OSHA said that this story should be a lesson to other managers. “A supervisor does not have the right to abolish a job position because he becomes annoyed by a worker voicing safety concerns,” said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “While OSHA is best known for ensuring the safety and health of employees, it is also a federal government whistleblower protection agency.”
To learn how to fight back against your own Bully Boss and protect yourself from an illegal hostile work environment, get the book that is helping employees across all fifty states, “Work Laws Exposed” by Curt K, the Undercover Lawyer.