Illinois Federal Judge Rules Railroad Employees Can File Suit If Employer Blocks Them from Getting Medical Treatment Following Work Injury; Rene Delgado v. Union Pacific

A judge has ruled that federal law allows railroad employees to file suit if their employer blocks them from getting medical treatment for an on-the-job injury.

U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp Jr. declined to throw out Rene Delgado’s claim that Union Pacific Railroad Co. violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) by directing him not to go to the hospital after he injured his foot. Tharp cited Section 20109 of FRSA, saying Congress intended to provide a private right-of-action for railroad employees whose employers obstruct their attempt to get medical care following a workplace injury.

Subsection (c)(1) prohibits railroad carriers from acting to “deny, delay or interfere with the medical or first aid treatment of an employee who is injured during the course of employment.”

Subsection (c)(2) bars railroad carriers from disciplining or threatening to discipline an employee who seeks medical treatment.

Union Pacific argued that Delgado’s obstruction claim was blocked by Subsection (d)(1), which provides a private right-of-action to any employee “who alleges discharge, discipline or other discrimination in violation of subsection (a), (b) or (c) of this section.”

Union Pacific said Delgado did not allege that he was disciplined or threatened with discipline for asking for medical treatment. The railroad also contended that employees cannot bring claims that they were the subject of discrimination in violation of Subsection (c) because that subsection does not expressly bar such discrimination.

But Tharp rejected the argument as “counterintuitive.”

Such a reading of FRSA would leave employees denied access to medical treatment without a legal remedy but allow employees subjected to a lesser infringement of their rights — discipline imposed or threatened after obtaining treatment — with a remedy, Tharp said.

He said obstructing an injured employee from seeking medical aid “is itself discrimination against an employee” and therefore may be the subject of a private suit.

“Seeking medical treatment for a workplace injury is likely, if not almost certain, to lead to the disclosure of the hazard that caused the injury and, in that light, a carrier’s efforts to ‘deny, delay or interfere’ with an injured employee’s pursuit of medical treatment can easily be understood to constitute a form of discrimination, and retaliation, against such an employee,” Tharp wrote.

Rene Delgado v. Union Pacific Railroad Co. No. 12 C 2596.

The lead attorney for Delgado is John Stephan Bishof Jr.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois work injury lawsuits for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Blue Island, Chicago Heights, Brookfield, Cicero, Morton Grove, and Chicago’s Hyde Park.

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