Former BNSF worker sues firm in whistleblower lawsuit

Michael Fink, of Bismarck, North Dakota, recently filed a federal lawsuit seeking reimbursement, lost wages, benefits, emotional compensation, and other relief after BNSF, a railroad company, fired him last year after raising some concerns Things. We also want his job back and are demanding punitive damages of up to $ 250,000. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in North Dakota earlier this month.

A silver pipe with the “Securities and Exchange Commission” printed on one side; Image via US SEC Office of the Whistleblower, public domain.

According to the lawsuit, Fink was dismissed on April 5, 2019 for dishonesty after “it was reported that a switch that allows trains to switch to another set of rails was damaged on February 5, 2019 at the Jamestown, ND freight yard. “In filing the lawsuit, Fink argued that he was” telling the truth about the incident, that his crew did not return to the counter, but that a maintenance crew might have damaged him before his employees were on site. ” He claims he was fired “for reporting problems with the emergency braking policy on February 5, 2019.”

The complaint goes on to say: “BNSF coal trains and empty wagons did not brake properly in the winter months of 2017, 2018 and 2019.” In fact, a train broke in half once as it passed through Hettinger, ND, about 60 miles south of Dickinson , ND, near the South Dakota border. In the incident, the “emergency brakes were not applied, which allowed the wagons to roll freely and uncontrolled through several level crossings in several cities”.

In addition, there have been many “inquiries about old control valves that needed to be replaced when the problem was investigated,” the suit said. Coal car valves have a life expectancy of 10 years, but the BNSF used those that were 20 years old despite being aware of the problem, the complaint said.

The problems with the defective emergency brakes were allowed to solidify until senior officials from BNSF headquarters arrived in 2019 to investigate the matter. According to their investigation, the company ordered “trains with poor emergency brakes not to leave the terminals until the old valves were replaced. “However, employees were told to make a policy change that Fink said would prevent them from knowing whether emergency brakes were working,” the lawsuit reads.

“The impact of this policy change was that the crews were instructed to pull the brakes on the train to zero before disconnecting a train, which left the crew in the dark as to whether the train would perform proper emergency braking.”

He also told her supervisors that the company “is using the policy incorrectly and inappropriately to mask braking problems”. The suit states:

“It is incredibly dangerous for BNSF staff and the public when trains are not on emergency brakes … It is also incredibly dangerous when train crews operate trains without knowing that they have fully functional emergency brakes.”

Commenting on the matter, the company said it is “committed to the safety of our employees, our operations and the communities we serve … This is the foundation of our business and we take all allegations of unsafe practices very seriously”.


The BNSF employee was dismissed by the whistle of train brakes

Fink v BNSF Railway Company

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