Seven employees disciplined for following doctors’ orders
BOSTON — Just chalk it up to more trouble for Metro-North.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has determined that Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. violated Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) anti-discrimination provisions between 2011 and 2013 when it disciplined seven Connecticut employees for following their physicians' instructions.
OSHA's investigations found that employees working in New Haven and Stamford were issued written warnings under the railroad's attendance policy when they each followed the orders of their doctors to home from work. Five were carmen, one an electrician and one a foreman. (The Labor Department does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complains.)
The FRSA prohibits railroad carriers from disciplining or threatening to discipline employees who follow a physician's orders or treatment plan.
"Metro-North's policy of making employees ignore a treating physician's medical instructions or face discipline is unacceptable," said Robert B. Hooper, OSHA's acting regional administrator for New England. "While Metro-North says it has since changed this policy, this type of procedure, which endangers employees and the public and is illegal under the FRSA, should not exist."
The employees filed complaints with OSHA, which found merit to the complaints, and ordered Metro-North to pay each employee $1,000 in compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys' fees. The railroad must also expunge the written warnings from each employee's personnel record and post a workplace notice informing employees of their FRSA anti-discrimination rights. Either party in these cases can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.
Metro-North says that it took "swift action" to resolve the complaints this year and had expunged the warning letters before OSHA's ruling.
"Metro-North Railroad is committed to ensuring for all of its employees the protections established under the Federal Railway Safety Act," Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan said in a statement.