Sparre v. United States Department of Labor, No. 18-2348 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Sparre began working as a Norfolk locomotive engineer in 1999. In 2010, he reported a safety violation to the Federal Railroad Administration, which resulted in the assessment of an $8,000 civil penalty against Norfolk. In 2014, Norfolk terminated Sparre for excessively exceeding the speed limit while operating a locomotive. Sparre complained to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging Norfolk fired him in retaliation for reporting the safety concern in 2010, which would violate the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109. OSHA dismissed Sparre’s complaint as without merit. Sparre requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. The parties engaged in years‐long, extensive discovery. In November 2017, the ALJ found there were no genuine issues of fact and granted Norfolk a summary decision. The decision, with instructions to petition for review, including the 14‐day timeline, was mailed to Sparre and his attorneys that same day. Thirty days later, Sparre appealed to the Board and filed a petition for judicial review. The Seventh Circuit remanded to the Board, which found that Sparre’s petition was untimely and he was not entitled to equitable tolling. Sparre filed a second appeal. The Seventh Circuit rejected the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Sparre failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies before appealing.