Tuesday, April 10, 2012

BNSF Rescinds Medical Reporting Rule

In a victory for labor unions, BNSF Railway has reversed course and put the brakes on a recently imposed rule that required railway workers company-wide to provide information pertaining to off-duty medical procedures and non-work-related medical issues.

In a written statement, BNSF spokeswoman Suann Lundsberg acknowledged the railroad had reviewed the situation and decided to withdraw the rule effective March 29, just six days after the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen and other labor unions filed complaints against the policy with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“BNSF continues to assess and consider the very real and serious safety concerns that gave rise to the rule but will be considering alternative ways to address those issues in a manner consistent with past practice and the practices already in effect on other railroads as well as the practices in other regulated transportation industries,” Lundsberg said in an email to the news media confirming the change.

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

The BLET and other labor organizations, including the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Transportation-Communications International Union and United Transportation Union, however, had alleged that the new medical reporting policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and possibly other federal statutes.

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

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

But as of late March, the policy has been scrapped, according to the railroad.