Joe Jordan|Nebraska Watchdog
Chastised for its “reprehensible conduct” Union Pacific railroad has been ordered to pay nearly $310,000 to a North Platte man who was fired after a co-worker ran over his foot.
A federal judge has ruled that UP, which is headquartered in Omaha, displayed “blatant disregard” for a federal whistleblower law which allows railroad workers to report injuries.
“The ruling is contrary to other federal law and collective bargaining agreements the railroad must follow,” UP said in a statement released to Nebraska Watchdog.
In her 35 page order issued this week, which UP plans to appeal, Administrative Law Judge Pamela Lakes said the railroad’s own rules “punish an employee for being injured.”
The Washington D.C. judge added that Brian Petersen, 29, would not have been fired if he had not reported his injury—Petersen’s lawyer describes his client’s injuries as minor.
According to the judge’s facts of the case, Petersen was fired in September, 2009, two weeks after he was hurt, while talking on a cell phone in a UP parking lot in North Platte.
It was the second time in just over two years that the apprentice machinist was hurt on the job. In 2007 he got his head caught in a crankcase and was “spitting out blood and teeth.” A foreman testified that the incident “impacted Union Pacific’s safety record.”
The railroad has been ordered to reinstate Petersen, along with at least $135,000 in back pay plus interest and $75,000 for pain and suffering.
The judge tacked on another $100,000 in punitive damages to “ensure that this reprehensible conduct is not repeated.”
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