Tagliatela v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co.
The Federal Rail Safety Act bars a railroad carrier from discharging, demoting, suspending or reprimanding a worker in response to the worker's good-faith notification about a work-related, personal injury. Metro-North Commuter Railroad hired Ralph Tagliatela as a custodian. Allegedly, on April 12, 2008, Tagliatela was working and slipped and fell in a hole when he bent to pick up papers. The following day, Tagliatela was unable to walk, and he called his supervisor and went to the hospital. Metro-North suspended Tagliatela five days, in part because he failed to immediately report the accident before he left work, and also because he did not appear at an April 21 medical appointment in New York City. Tagliatela sued Metro-North, alleging that he engaged in a protected activity when he reported a work-related injury, that Metro-North knew about his protected activity, and that Metro-North took adverse or unfavorable action, because of his protected activity. Previously, Tagliatela had settled his personal-injury claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act and signed a release of his claims against Metro-North for damages and compensation from his slip and fall. Metro-North argued that the Federal Employers Liability Act release barred the Federal Rail Safety Act claim. The court found that Metro-North knew about Tagliatela's Federal Rail Safety Act claim and could have negotiated and included that claim in the FELA release. The FELA release did not bar the Federal Rail Safety Act claim. 49 U.S.C. §20109(a)(4) provides that a railroad carrier "may not discharge, demote, suspend, reprimand, or in any other way discriminate against an employee if such discrimination is due, in whole or in part, to the employee's lawful, good faith act done . . . to notify, or attempt to notify, the railroad carrier . . . of a work-related personal injury." Tagliatela adequately alleged a Federal Rail Safety Act claim based on his suspension, and that claim survived Metro-North's motion for summary judgment.