July 17, 2002
CHICAGO (July 17)–A detailed complaint written up by the legislative representative of the UTU local in Centralia has resulted in a a Federal Railroad Administration finding that a Canadian National/Illinois Central Railroad official violated federal law by failing to provide an injured employee with prompt medical treatment.
In a July 10 letter to UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, FRA Regional Administrator D.J. Tisor wrote that his office in Kansas City concluded after a thorough investigation that CN/IC violated section 225.33 (a)(1) of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
That Regulation mandates that railroad companies must arrange prompt medical treatment for all employee injuries and may not harass or intimidate an injured employee into dropping his injury claim or refusing medical treatment.
The FRA investigation was initiated after Ron Caldwell, Local Chairman and Legislative Representative of Local 565 in Centralia, filed a complaint in connection with an injury that occurred December 9, 2001, on the IC property at Cairo. The IC employee stated that while cutting in the air between the locomotive and a cut of cars, he slipped on a frost-covered railroad tie and twisted his right knee.
“He immediately called his conductor for assistance and then the CN/IC Cairo operator,” Tisor wrote in his letter to Szabo. “The employee told the Cairo Operator he was in pain and needed to go to the hospital ASAP.”
But management failed to heed the employee’s plea for medical treatment, Tisor wrote. Instead, the injured employee was told to wait until an official drove to the scene from Centralia.
“Upon returning to the yard office, the employee filled out an accident report and was made to wait for the Centralia Zone Superintendent to arrive almost 2 hours later,” Tisor wrote.
But the delays didn’t end with the arrival of the Zone Superintendent, the investigation revealed.
“Upon the arrival of the Superintendent, when the employee asked to be taken to the hospital he was told the Claim Agent would take him,” Tisor wrote. “The Claim Agent did not arrive for another hour [from his base in St. Louis]. It was approximately 3 hours after the injury before the employee was transported to the hospital for medical treatment.”
Szabo lauded Caldwell for taking “prompt and thorough action” to make sure that the company’s violation was properly written up so it could be processed and forwarded to the FRA for investigation.
“This is the third time this year that the Illinois Legislative Board has been instrumental in gaining an FRA finding that a rail carrier tried to intimidate an employee into withdrawing or modifying an injury report,” Szabo said. “It happened with the Belt Railway of Chicago and the Indiana Harbor Belt, and now the FRA has brought in a finding against CN/IC.
“And once again, the results can be attributed to two factors,” Szabo said: “The employee was not afraid to follow through with charges against the carrier, and a union representative carefully wrote up the incident and moved it promptly to the Legislative Board for transmittal to the FRA.
“These cases cannot be won without documentation, but even the most devoted union official cannot prepare documentation unless the employee shares all of the relevant case information with the union,” Szabo pointed out. “All of our members owe a debt of gratitude to Ron Caldwell and the employee for doing their respective parts. I just hope that future injured employees will come forward the same way if a railroad official tries to dissuade them from seeking medical attention or tries to convince them that ‘It’s no big deal–you don’t need a doctor for that.'”
Formal sanctions against CN/IC are anticipated following Tisor’s disclosure that his office had forwarded the Kansas City office’s finding to the FRA’s Chief Counsel with a recommendation for civil penalties. In addition to a monetary fine, the finding already has produced practical results.
“To CN/IC’s credit, it appears that as a result of this incident they have brought in new management,” Szabo said. “This is important, because Centralia has been something of a ‘hot spot’ for some time. I understand the new official is very approachable and seems interested in making some positive changes in the way the division goes about its business. Ron says he sees progress.”