Posted: May 27, 2012

A railroad jack falling on a worker’s foot and breaking his big toe wasn’t that big of a deal – until the Metro-North Railroad in Connecticut disciplined the worker for reporting his injury. A jury recently awarded Andy Barati $50,000 for lost earnings and pain and suffering in the incident. But it went further, much further, also awarding more than $1 million in punitive damages in what was reported by the Associated Press as the first verdict under the Federal Rail Safety Act. That law forbids retaliation against workers who report violations or workplace injuries. The 48-year-old Barati was fired after reporting the injury but was later rehired and his dismissal reduced to a suspension. The AP said the railroad claimed Barati had violated company policy by failing to make sure his feet were in a safe place before operating the jack. But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated and found Metro-North had violated railroad safety procedures.