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Feds say Union Pacific retaliated against injured worker

Saying Union Pacific Railroad (UNP) oversees a "culture of retaliation," the U.S. Department of Labor this week ordered the railway to pay $350,000 in damages to a locomotive freight engineer who was disciplined after seeking medical attention following an injury suffered in a collision at the railroad's yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

Investigators for the agency's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the railway took action against the worker after the engineer sought medical care for a work-related injury that occurred on Dec. 22, 2013, the department said in a statement.

The 35-year employee had never been disciplined before the incident, the department said.

"It is not only illegal to discipline an employee for reporting an injury and seeking medical attention, it puts everyone at risk," Marcia Drumm, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Missouri, said.

The case is the third violation at the North Platte yard by Union Pacific since 2011 of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, intended to protect railroad workers from retaliation for reporting potential safety or security violations.

Since 2001, the Omaha-based railway, which operates in 23 states, has faced more than 200 whistleblower complaints nationwide, the Labor Department said.

The rail operator plans to appeal the agency's ruling, Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said in an email. "Union Pacific strongly disagrees with OSHA's findings in this case."

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