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Young v. CSX Transp., Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 4, 2014

ROBIN B. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant

For Plaintiff: CHARLES C. GOETSCH, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, CHARLES C. GOETSCH LAW OFFICES LLC, New Haven, CT.

For Plaintiff: SCOTT E. PERRY, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, CAHILL, GOETSCH LAW FIRM - NEW HAVEN OFFICE, New Haven, CT.

For Defendant: JACQUELINE M. HOLMES, ESQ., RONALD M. JOHNSON, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, JONES, DAY LAW FIRM - DC OFFICE, Washington, DC.

For Defendant: SCOTT A. BARBOUR, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, MCNAMEE, LOCHNER LAW FIRM, Albany, NY.

Page 389

MEMORANDUM--DECISION and ORDER

DAVID N. HURD, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Robin Young (" Young" or " plaintiff" ) filed this action against his employer, defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. (" CSX" or " defendant" ), pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 20109 et seq. (the " Federal Rail Safety Act" or " FRSA" ), alleging that defendant violated the FRSA's anti-retaliation provisions when it terminated his employment after becoming aware that he had filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (" OSHA" ).

Following the completion of discovery, CSX moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Rule" ) 56. The motion was fully briefed. Oral argument was heard on August 8, 2014 in Utica, New York. Decision was reserved.

II. BACKGROUND

CSX is a freight railroad company that employs approximately 35,000 people nationwide. See Def.'s Statement of Material Facts, ECF No. 39-20, ¶ 1 (" Rule 7.1 Stat." ).[1] Defendant's numerous employees are organized into different " crafts" based on the type of work they perform. Id. Each of these crafts is represented by its own union; each union negotiates and maintains a separate collective bargaining agreement with defendant. Id. These union agreements are centrally administered through defendant's Labor Relations Department located at its Corporate Headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. See id. ¶ 15; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. NN, ECF No. 44-6, 3-4 (" Second Nihoul Dep." ).[2]

In 1998, CSX hired Young as a " trackman" in the Engineering Department at its Selkirk, New York facility. Rule 7.1 Stat. ¶ 2. Trackmen are responsible for maintaining and repairing the railroad tracks, and their craft is represented by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees' union (" BMWE" ). Id. Plaintiff successfully established seniority rights

Page 390

as a trackman in BMWE during this time.[3] Id. ¶ 3.

In late 2003, Young applied for and received a position as a " train dispatcher" in CSX's Transportation Department. Rule 7.1 Stat. ¶ 4. Because train dispatchers are members of a different craft, plaintiff also became a member of a different union--the American Train Dispatchers' Association (" ATDA" ). Id. ¶ 5. However, plaintiff also maintained his seniority rights in BMWE by taking a " leave of absence" from his trackman duties and continuing to pay BMWE union dues. Id.; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. JT, ECF No. 44-5, 9 (" Second Tolin Dep." ).

On September 14, 2009, Young was working as a train dispatcher when he was involved in an incident that nearly resulted in the collision of two passenger trains. See Johnson Decl., Ex. 1, ECF No. 39-7, 35-37 (" First Young Dep." ). CSX and the Federal Railroad Administration (" FRA" ), an independent federal regulator, conducted an investigation into the incident. See Compl. ¶ 11. Following this investigation, defendant determined that plaintiff's involvement in the near-collision warranted dismissal, and on October 8, 2009, defendant mailed plaintiff a letter informing him of its decision.[4] Rule 7.1 Stat. ¶ 6; Nihoul Aff., Ex. 2, ECF No. 39-3 (the " Dismissal Letter" ).

Several months later, Young filed a complaint with OSHA, the federal agency responsible for investigating and enforcing whistleblower protections found in the FRSA. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1, ECF No. 44-1, 4 (the " OSHA Complaint" ). Plaintiff's OSHA Complaint alleged that CSX had instructed plaintiff " to accept full responsibility" for the near-collision and " to refrain from providing extensive testimony about [ ] related safety issues" during a formal hearing with the FRA. Id. The complaint further alleged that plaintiff's dismissal as a train dispatcher was in retaliation for failing to follow these directives and instead choosing to report various safety issues. Id.

On March 2, 2010, after his dismissal and while this OSHA complaint was still pending, Young attempted to exercise the seniority rights he had maintained in BMWE during his leave of absence to " displace" an employee with less seniority and return to work as a trackman.[5] Rule 7.1 Stat. ¶ ¶ 13-14. Plaintiff contacted the Engineering Department at Selkirk and spoke to Staff Engineer Chris Lorensen (" Lorensen" ) about how to complete this displacement procedure. Id. ΒΆ 14. Lorensen consulted an electronic database that revealed plaintiff had previously been " dismissed" from employment. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. CL, ECF No. 44-4, 12-13 (" Second Lorensen Dep." ). However, Lorensen knew that " you can be dismissed as a [train] dispatcher and not necessarily dismissed in all capacities" and decided to seek guidance from John Tolin (" Tolin" ), one of the ...


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