A jury in Colorado recently awarded Brandon Fresquez $1.05 million in damages for his whistleblower retaliation claim filed against BNSF Railway Company. The award includes $800,000 in emotional distress damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.
Fresquez served as a track inspector at BNSF, and was responsible for analyzing tracks, finding defects and remediating those defects by either repairing them or reporting them to his superiors. He discovered two supervisors were putting tracks back into service before fully repairing defects, and confronted a supervisor about the practice. The supervisor in question berated Fresquez and warned him he would be terminated if he didn’t look the other way.
Despite some retaliation, he continued to report defects and take tracks out of service. He ultimately demanded a supervisor admit to falsifying track defect reports in May 2016. Several days later, he refused an instruction to reclassify another defect, and was threatened with firing.
Later that same day, he was directed to investigate another defect that was identified, where the supervisor once again attempted to intimidate him. Fresquez walked away from the site, saying there was no point in determining if there was an alignment defect since the supervisor would ask him to ignore it anyway, and he was disciplined for insubordination as a result. BNSF ultimately fired Fresquez over the incident.
Fresquez filed a FRSA whistleblower retaliation claim with OSHA, and OSHA determined there was cause to believe BNSF violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the FRSA. After lengthy legal battles, the jury sided with the plaintiff.
To learn more about the steps to take to protect yourself and your rights if you experience retaliation as a whistleblower, meet with an experienced attorney at Kardell Law Group.