Conductor fired for repeat workplace safety violations

An appeals court dismissed a railroad conductor’s claims that he was fired for reporting a workplace injury.

In Holloway v. Soo Line Railroad Co., d/b/a Canadian Pacific, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Wednesday unanimously affirmed a decision by the U.S. District Court in Chicago that a railroad company provided sufficient evidence that it terminated the worker for repeated safety violations.

Douglas Holloway began working for Canadian Pacific Railroad of Franklin Park, Illinois, in July 2014. During his tenure, he was suspended three times for infractions ranging from failing to provide his engineer with important safety information to violating safety and work rules. On Oct. 18, 2015, while Mr. Holloway and another employee were moving railcars, requiring them to use an all-purpose vehicle, the other worker crashed the vehicle in to a pole. Neither Mr. Holloway nor the other worker were wearing seatbelts, and both sustained injuries requiring medical care.

Canadian Pacific, which is owned by Minneapolis-based Soo Line Railroad Co., launched a formal investigation and determined that Mr. Holloway had violated Canadian Pacific’s seatbelt requirements and rule requiring him to inspect for and report safety defects. Based on his history of safety violations, he was terminated.

He filed a complaint against Canadian Pacific, but the District Court dismissed his claims. Mr. Holloway appealed, arguing only that the court erred in dismissing his claim for unlawful retaliation in violation of the Federal Railway Safety Act.

The appeals court affirmed the decision. Although Mr. Holloway argued that his protected activity was a contributing factor in his termination — since he was fired only after he reported his workplace injury — the court found that he presented no evidence that he was fired in retaliation for reporting the injury. Rather, the court noted, the record showed that Mr. Holloway repeatedly violated the company’s work and safety rules and was eventually fired for “accumulating so many violations.”

Mr. Holloway also argued that the company did not discipline the employee driving the car, which he charged also provided evidence of retaliation, but the court found that other than one reprimand, the other employee’s record was clean.

Canadian Pacific and its attorney could not be reached the comment. Mr. Holloway’s attorney declined to comment on the decision.

This article was first published by Business Insurance.

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