I recently received a call from a railroad conductor who was having a difficult time getting the railroad medical department to approve him for a return to work following an injury. It is not uncommon for an injured employee to be pulled out of service by the railroad’s medical department because of an alleged physical limitation, even though all of the employee’s treating physicians have cleared him to return to work. The employee is forced to miss work and lose wages, sometimes for a significant period of time. The railroad’s motivation in some of these cases is not the safety of the employee or his co-workers, but retaliation for reporting an injury at work. In these cases, the employee may have a claim under the Federal Rail Safety Act.
Even if the condition cited by the railroad’s medical department is not related to an injury, there may still be a violation of the employee’s rights under the law. If an otherwise healthy employee is not permitted to work because the railroad regards him as disabled, it may be a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). We have been successful in utilizing the ADA to get railroad employees promptly returned to work. In Pierson v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., for example, an Ohio court of appeals held that a railroad employee at the Ashtabula Coal Dock stated a claim under the ADA when the railroad’s medical department refused to return him to work after he finished treatment for a heart condition. The employee’s treating doctors said he was qualified to do his job, but the NS Medical Department unreasonably disagreed.
If you are having difficulty dealing with the railroad medical department, contact our firm. We can evaluate the specific circumstances of your case to see if your rights are being violated.