A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed by a fired railroad employee who accused him of being fired for reporting a dangerous safety situation.
Cody Ziparo worked for Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX Transportation Inc. as a train driver from 2006 to 2016, according to Friday's ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York Cody Ziparo v. CSX Transportation Inc.
Mr. Ziparo complained that he was pressured by supervisors to mark tasks completed on the railway system for "on-board work orders", even if this was not the case, the verdict said.
"Ziparo was not comfortable with these requests and his refusal. to implement them faced threats of discipline. Both the request and the threat of discipline caused Ziparo stress to the point that he could not focus on his work, the verdict says. He lodged a formal complaint with the regulators in May 2016.
The following month, a misaligned switch almost led to a catastrophic collision and CSX reports showed that Ziparo was the last person to use the switch before the incident and that he had failed to reset. it to its proper position.
Mr. Ziparo ended. The railway then reprimanded the two supervisors he had complained about.
Mr. Ziparo sued the U.S. District Court in Syracuse, New York, accusing it of unlawful revenge under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. a local employee would reasonably understand that it constituted a dangerous safety or security condition and a judgment that was not the case here.
The District Court also held that the term "dangerous safety or security relationship" in the FSRA applied only to physical conditions, which was not applicable in this case.
The decision was overturned by a unanimous Board of Appeal with three judges. "We conclude that a reasonable jury could find that Ziparo subjectively believed that what he reported was a dangerous safety or security relationship within the meaning of the FRSA," the panel ruled.
The judgment also stated, "Undoubtedly, limiting the FRSA's protection to reports of physical conditions would unnecessarily limit its scope and yield results that Congress certainly did not intend. It is clear that various methods that do not include physical circumstances can create security risks. "
Referring the case back for further proceedings, the judgment said:" We do not take a position on whether a reasonable jury could find that Ziparo was fired, at least in part for its reports, rather than, as CSX claims, only because he was negligent in restoring a switch, with potentially catastrophic consequences – an issue that the district court did not address. ”
S. Matthew Darby, of Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP in Lutherville, Maryland, who represented Ziparo, saying that the ruling was "a sensible and legally appropriate decision from the other circle that recognized the FSRA's view, which is to promote safety in the railway industry."  The railway lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
In July, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation found that a CSX company violated the FRSA and "showed a pattern of revenge" after firing a worker in December 2019 for reporting safety issues. Catalog