Foster v. BNSF Railway Co., No. 16-1648 (8th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed suit against BNSF, alleging retaliation claims under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(1)(C). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of certain claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and conclusion that claims that were properly exhausted failed on the merits. The court held that the district court properly concluded that claims asserting additional adverse actions were unrelated to the claims in plaintiffs' OSHA complaint and unexhausted, and plaintiffs failed to exhaust their claims asserting retaliation for alleged protected activity in their statements to a claims representative. In regard to properly exhausted claims, the court held that, assuming that providing information about an injury caused by the carrier's negligence could give rise to liability, plaintiffs first alleged protected activity -- handwritten statements to the trainmaster -- fell short of satisfying section 20109(a)(1). Furthermore, plaintiffs' testimony at the investigative hearing could not have contributed to earlier adverse actions, and plaintiffs failed to prove that the discipline imposed by the company for rule violations was made with retaliatory motive.