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Exclusive: Judge blasts Union Pacific, awards injured worker $310K

By   /   August 10, 2013  /   2 Comments

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.

Union Pacific's Bailey Yards  in North Platte

Union Pacific’s Bailey Yards in North Platte

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.”

Contact Joe Jordan at [email protected]

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Joe formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Horseswaggled

    According to national stats drivers with brakes and steering had like two deaths in the same 190 million train miles as Union Pacific with 133 deaths last year. How do the states/Feds hide the truth so well?

    SELECTION: RAILROAD – Union Pacific RR Co. [UP ] / January TO December, 2012

    TOTAL ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS: 1,714 Total train miles: 167,573,536

    Switching miles: 22,033,346

    Total miles about 190,000,000

    Total fatalities: 133

    Total nonfatal conditions: 982

    Employee hours: 94,975,156

    Killed at crossings-49

    Injured at crossings-209

    Killed pedestrians-74

    Injured pedestrians-97

    Killed workers- 5

    Injurered workers-524

  • Dave

    Union Pacific Railroad has had a history of reprehensible conduct towards it’s workers since its inception over 100 years ago. I have heard horror stories of how they treat their people in the dispatch center.
    I’m surprised that the George Bushs didn’t give them “great american” medals during their disasterous times in office.