The Federal Employers Liability Act protects railroad workers in the event that they are injured on the job. This act, which the U.S. Congress passed in 1908, puts the burden of proof on the injured railroad worker. The worker must prove that negligence took place in order to receive compensation for the injury. This compensation is usually much higher than an employee of any other industry would get with standard workers compensation. In addition to being injured on the job, railroad workers can also receive compensation if they were around asbestos or if they suffered from repetitive stress.
FELA was based on the power that the federal government holds over interstate commerce. This commerce was granted to states by a clause in the Constitution. Unlike workers compensation, FELA has been interpreted in countless different ways by state and federal appellate courts.
When FELA first began, railroad employees were against the idea of having a separate workers compensation plan for them. The unions formed by railroad workers preferred the idea of a separate workers' comp for their industry, but railroad employers felt traditional workers' comp was a better option. Since then, both parties have reversed their decisions, with employers now having a preference for FELA and the workers preferring normal workers' comp.
FELA has contributed to the establishment of precedents in cases of emotional distress and the standards that employers must meet for the safety of their employees and the workplace.
Any railroad worker who has been injured on the job should consult a knowledgeable lawyer to obtain the compensation he or she needs and deserves. At Rubino, Ruman, Crosmer, Smith & Polen, we fight for our clients’ rights to federally guaranteed benefits.