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OSHA Orders METRA to Pay $38,000 to Whistleblower Who Made Safety Complaint

CHICAGO, Illinois - The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ordered Chicago's commuter rail agency to pay an employee of the agency $38,000 in overtime pay. OSHA determined that the commuter rail agency, METRA, did not pay the employee overtime pay in retaliation for the worker making a complaint about the safety of the railroad, according to an article published in the Chicago Tribune.

Such news came as no surprise to Chicago whistleblower claim lawyer Ben Crane of the Coplan & Crane law firm. Railroad workers who report safety violations or unsafe conditions are often punished for doing so. Instead of recognizing employees for bringing such violations to the attention of their supervisors, many whistleblowers are demoted or fired for having the courage to speak out against something that puts people at risk, or could result in a railroad accident.

The recent case involved a 22-year employee of METRA, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  The Sun-Times reported that the unidentified employee "contended that METRA closed his position as a signal testman and gave him another signal testman job without overtime after he complained that he could not adequately test signals without working off-hours and incurring overtime."

The case against METRA appeared very straightforward, according to Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "When employees can't report safety concerns on the job without fear of retaliation, worker safety and, in this case, passenger safety on Metra, becomes a serious concern," Walters said, according to his comments published by the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the whistleblower employee first complained on Aug. 1, 2011, that railroad signals were not being tested properly by METRA because of time constraints. The employee asked to work overtime in order to conduct the tests. METRA responded by reducing the employee's overtime hours and eventually eliminating his position.

The whistleblower still works for METRA in a different position. But such actions by METRA illustrate why it's so important that agencies like OSHA exist to enforce the laws, according to Chicago railroad accident lawyer Greg Coplan of Coplan & Crane. Without government oversight and whistleblowers, the millions of people who ride commuter trains every day would be at risk of being involved in a serious or potentially fatal railroad accident. Such incidents also illustrate why law firms like Coplan & Crane exist: to protect the rights of whistleblowers who are just trying to do the right thing, and make our railroads safer.

If you need an accident attorney in the Chicago, Illinois area, contact Coplan & Crane at 800-394-6002 or visit our Oak Park office.