In 2010, Curtis Rookaird was fired by BNSF for checking the brakes on oil train cars before he left the Seattle terminal. He was checking for safety and wanted to prevent a tragedy like the one that killed 47 people in Quebec last summer. Three years later, Curtis won an OSHA whistleblower lawsuit, but the railroad is appealing and has refused reinstate his employment and pay him for the last four years as directed. Now Curtis and his family are losing their dream home because they cannot keep up with the mortgage payments.
This story is just another example of the need to enact legislation that would clarify the protection of employees who refuse to violate or who expose violations of accepted public policy. If the law is not changed, the most dangerous employers could threaten vital public policies. WSAJ believes it is important to have an independent statutory protection for all employees, just as public sector employees currently have.
As the volume of trains carrying highly explosive fuels through our communities continues to dramatically increase, the need to enact commonsense protection measures and community “right to know” laws becomes paramount. So does the need to protect whistleblowers like Curtis.