Progress Through Unity

Intimidating Railroad Tactics – Confidential Medical Information


I recently spoke with a railroad client and learned about another example of a railroad overreaching its bounds and intruding on the personal rights of its employees – this time with regard to the right of medical confidentiality.  Given the importance of this issue, I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore this situation in more detail.

I have blogged before about railroad employee’s right under the Federal Rail Safety Act whistleblower provisions to immediate medical treatment under §20109.Specifically, §20109

(c) (1) requires a railroad to promptly arrange to have an injured employee transported to the nearest hospital for appropriate medical care.  As stated previously, in order to trigger this provision of the FRSA whistleblower law, the employee must request the transport.

However, what happens when an employee indicates that they do not require transportation?  In this recent situation, a railroad employee reported an exposure to fumes in a locomotive, but stated he was not adversely affected.  Rather than express a concern about the potential health effects on the employee, the railroad used this opportunity to require him to come into the yard office where he was interrogated by several management employees, including the railroad’s Medical Director by telephone, about his overall health.

For employees in this situation, it is important to understand your right of medical confidentiality. While the railroad may have the right to information regarding your health as it pertains to your ability to safely work on the railroad, it does not mean that they can go on a fishing expedition and require you to reveal information about your overall health to a room full of management employees. That information is confidential and may be used against you in the future.  Accordingly, unless the medical condition is relevant to your ability to work safely and requested under appropriate circumstances, an employee in that situation should consider their right of confidentiality before providing this information.  Of course, if the railroad employee is given a direct order then a charge of insubordination may be implicated.  Therefore, consultation with your Local Chairman or legal counsel is recommended.

This discussion brings to mind another important issue regarding medical confidentiality. In a situation in which the employee does request medical treatment, the railroad is required to transport that employee, if requested, to the closest appropriate medical facility. Once the employee is at that medical facility, the railroad cannot interfere in any way in the employee’s medical treatment. This means that once the employee is under the care of a physician, the railroad’s management has no right to inquire about the employee’s condition or interfere in any way in the employee’s medical treatment.

Should you have any questions regarding this issue or any other related matter, please do not hesitate to contact our office for a consultation. Please visit our website and download our App for Railroad Employees (search “Matt Darby” and “railroad” in App Store).  You can also reach us at 800-248-FELA.


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Railroad Employee Injury Blog

Everyone has heard the above adage many times and understands what it means.  One wonders whether the origin of this phrase comes from the Railroad Industry.   In any event, it certainly has modern applicability to aRailroaders rights under the Federal Rail Safety Act Whistleblower Provisions.

Attorney Matt Darby

by Matt Darby

One of the strongest provisions of the Federal Rail Safety Act Whistleblower Provisionsprohibits a Railroad from denying, delaying or interfering in any way with the medical treatment of an employee who was injured during the course of employment.  In addition, if the injured employee requests transportation to a medical facility, as a result of an injury during the course of employment, the Railroad is required to promptly arrange to have the injured Railroad employee transported to the nearest hospital (where the employee can receive safe and appropriate medical care).  However, it is incumbent upon the employee to understand these rights and to affirmatively protect them.  In other words, an employee must recognize when their employer is attempting to interfere with their medical treatment.  This often arises in a context of a Railroad Official’s attempt to influence emergency room treatment.   It is well known among Railroad Supervisors that if an emergency room physician prescribes medication or restricts the Railroad employee for working for a period of time, the injury becomes FRA reportable.  Because a significant portion of a Railroad Supervisor’s bonus is based upon minimizing FRA reportable injuries, they are highly motivated to influence the emergency room physician against prescribing medication or restricting work activities.   However, the Railroad worker must enforce these rights by informing hospital personnel that no medical information is to be discussed with anyone from the Railroad.  In other words, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”.

 In addition, an injured employee must affirmatively request transportation to the nearest hospital if injured during the course of their employment.  If this right is not requested, then the previously mentioned provisions of the Federal Rail Safety Whistleblower Act are not triggered.  “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”.

Pence Voted Against Railroad Retirement

As a member of the 107th Congress, Congressman Mike Pence was one of only 33 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against the Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001. The act amended the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974, as well as amending the IRS code of 1986. It’s key point was reducing the retirement age of beneficiaries to 60 years of age, from 62.