Employees’ Complaints Against Canadian National Railway
On May 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ruled Wayne Laidler had been wrongfully fired by Canadian National Railway (Times Herald). The case, considered a whistleblower lawsuit, stems from Laidler’s firing after he refused to exit his train to conduct an inspection of an oncoming train at a Flint, Michigan substation in December 2012.
Laidler argued, “But my train was stopped on a bridge. It was 3 a.m., it was dark, and it was foggy. It was not safe for me to climb out of my train, and onto the bridge to inspect the oncoming train. There was no safe place to stand.” The OSHA ruling agreed with Laidler’s claims. CN violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, and has been ordered to reinstate Laidler with guaranteed pay and monetary compensation. He is to receive $92,916 in lost wages plus interest, $6,408 of lost vacation pay, $45,000 for the emotional stress of being wrongfully terminated, $100,000 from Canadian National Railway in order to discourage repetitive behaviour from CN, and an amount equal to his attorney’s fees.
Jessica Ballard, an African-American and former Canadian National Railway worker, is suing CN over alleged racial discrimination when she was fired in 2012 (Chicago Sun-Times). The lawsuit, filed May 15 in U.S. District Court, claims CN violated the Civil Rights Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act. Ballard alleges that a white female supervisor discriminated against her for about a year, manufactured examples of improper conduct, conducted “sham” investigations regarding minor infractions, and intentionally created a harassing and stressful work environment for Ballard. The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed amount in damages, reinstatement to her old job, or receipt of future wages she would have earned in her position before she was fired.
Following a whistleblower investigation, the OSHA ordered Canadian National Railway in April 2014 to reinstate a former conductor who had been fired after reporting a workplace injury (Journal Sentinel). CN was also ordered to pay the employee $352,000 in back wages, compensatory damages and punitive damages. An OSHA administrator said, “No worker should feel his job is at risk for reporting an injury or seeking medical attention.” The conductor injured one of his arms in early 2011 while working in Manitowoc for Wisconsin Central Ltd., a business unit of CN.
In a February 4, 2014 lawsuit against CN, Solomon Perry, a former conductor at Illinois Central Railroad Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, claimed he was racially discriminated against based on being African-American (Chicago Sun-Times). His lawsuit claimed he was repeatedly harassed, assaulted and subsequently terminated.
Illinois Central Railroad Co., a CN subsidiary, was cited in December 2013 by the OSHA for 1 wilfull and 6 serious safety violations for exposing workers to lead hazards (Insurance Journal). Proposed penalties totalled $110,500.
In 2013, the Federal Court upheld a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision awarding a fired CN conductor $35,000 for discrimination based on family status (Toronto Star). CN had fired a woman in 2005 for not accepting an employment transfer from Jasper, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia due to her inability to make appropriate childcare arrangements. Subsequently, 2 other female conductors at CN also made successful claims against CN.