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updated: 4/24/2013 8:42 AM

Feds: Metra whistle-blower owed thousands

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  • Whether railroad signals were tested in a timely manner is at the heart of a dispute involving Metra and a whistle-blower, who was awarded $38,000 by federal authorities.

      Whether railroad signals were tested in a timely manner is at the heart of a dispute involving Metra and a whistle-blower, who was awarded $38,000 by federal authorities.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

A Metra whistle-blower who tried to warn about safety issues deserves $38,000 in compensation for losing his job, federal regulators say.

The signalman had worked at Metra for 22 years when he reported in August 2011 that signals weren't being tested correctly because of lack of time, officials with the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration said.

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Subsequently, the railroad started cutting back on the employee's overtime. When he complained to OSHA, his position was eliminated without explanation, government investigators found.

Metra administrators said the agency had just received and was reviewing the notice of the decision from OSHA and couldn't comment.

"An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report safety issues," OSHA regional administrator Nick Walters said in a statement Tuesday. "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."

The $38,080 awarded to the signalman accounts for overtime owed, interest, damages and attorney costs. Metra was also ordered to remove any disciplinary information from the employee's records.

The railroad's actions violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, OSHA concluded.

Metra has the right to appeal the decision to an administrative law judge with the department.

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