Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rail Unions File Discrimination Charges Against BNSF

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen and a number of other labor unions have filed charges of discrimination against BNSF Railway to try putting the brakes on a new rule requiring that railway workers provide information pertaining to off-duty medical procedures and non-work-related medical issues.

“The highly personal medical information that must be provided under the policy includes doctor’s notes, diagnostic test results and hospital discharge summaries, which the carrier has no right to obtain,” the BLET said in a statement regarding its challenge.

The policy, which BNSF instituted Jan. 1, requires all employees to notify the carrier of medical conditions and/or events that occur or are diagnosed while they are away from work.

Employees must report medical events or conditions even, according to the BLET, “if there’s no basis for believing the condition or event has any impact on the employee’s ability to perform their job and even when the employee’s own doctor has placed no limitations on the employee’s job activities.”

In its complaint, which was filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission March 23, the BLET alleges that BNSF’s new company-wide medical reporting policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and could violate other federal statutes.

The BLET’s complaint was filed in conjunction with the filing of similar discrimination charges with the EEOC by numerous other rail and transportation labor unions, including the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Transportation-Communications International Union and United Transportation Union.

The unions allege that the medical information could reveal a disability that’s neither job-related nor relevant to any carrier interest, is likely to result in the carrier improperly obtaining genetic information, and discriminates against women affected by pregnancy and/or related medical conditions.

BNSF Railway, however, maintains the policy changes were implemented partially because some employees in the past were found to have serious medical conditions that impacted their safety, the safety of co-workers and potentially the safety of the general public.