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$100,000 Punitive Damage Whistleblower Award

Press Release/August 20, 2013

Urbana, Illinois, Locomotive Engineer Wins Whistleblower Case —OSHA Awards $5,000 In Compensatory Damages And $100,000 In Punitive Damages Against Illinois Central Railroad And Two Supervisors Individually

Our client, Tom McKinley — a railroad worker and resident of Urbana, Illinois — filed a whistleblower complaint on August 23, 2011 with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) against his employer, Illinois Central Railroad, and his two supervisors under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). This act protects employees who report workplace injuries from retaliation by their employers or supervisors.

On March 28, 2011, McKinley was injured in Champaign, Illinois, while setting a hand brake on a locomotive engine and reported his injury to his supervisor. On March 31, 2011, Illinois Central Railroad contacted him and advised him that a disciplinary investigation was scheduled for April 6, 2011. Illinois Central Railroad gave McKinley 20 days deferred suspension for alleged rule violations.

OSHA ruled that Illinois Central Railroad and two of his supervisors retaliated against McKinley for reporting an on-the-job injury. OSHA held that McKinley did not violate any safety rules and that McKinley’s work injury report was a contributing factor in the discipline. OSHA awarded McKinley $5,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. These damages were assessed not only to Illinois Central Railroad but also to McKinley’s two supervisors. OSHA also ordered expungement of McKinley’s personal file of the disciplinary action, attorney’s fees and that Illinois Central Railroad must remove from McKinley’s employment record any reference to the exercise of McKinley’s rights under the FRSA. In addition, OSHA required mandatory posting of the FRSA Fact Sheet and Notice to Employees at the Illinois Central Railroad’s Urbana Yard.

John Kujawski, a partner at Kujawski & Associates LLC, in O’Fallon, Illinois represented McKinley. Noah G. Lipschultz of the law firm of Littler Mendelson, P.C., of Minneapolis, Minnesota, represented the Railroad.

For more information, contact John Kujawski at 800-555-9108.