United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Court considers defendant's motion for partial dismissal.
These arguments present a case of first impression: may a
self-reported illness amount to a “hazardous safety or
security condition” under 49 U.S.C. § 20109(b)
(“subsection (b)”) of the Federal Railroad Safety
Act (“FRSA”)? The answer is no. Defendant's
motion, therefore, is granted.
Factual and Procedural Background
1998 through his termination in 2015, Marcus Williams worked
as a brakeman, conductor, then locomotive engineer for
Illinois Central Railroad Company (“IC”). During
the evening shift of June 12, 2015, Williams developed
multiple symptoms of heart attack. He notified his superiors
and was transported by company vehicle to the University of
Mississippi Medical Center Emergency Room in Jackson,
Mississippi. There, doctors determined Williams had not and
was not having a heart attack. Medical professionals did,
however, warn Williams that his symptoms were serious, and
they ordered him to remain sedentary and at home for three
days. Following the advice of his physicians, plaintiff did
not report for work during the following three days. Deciding
that these absences violated the railroad's no fault
attendance policy, IC terminated Williams on July 2, 2015.
filed a formal complaint with the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration on December 3, 2015. Before that agency
concluded its investigation and rendered a decision,
plaintiff exercised his right-in accordance with 49 U.S.C.
§ 20109(d)(3)- to file an original complaint in this
Court. He asserts three causes of action: one claim brought
under each of subsections (a), (b), and (c) of 49 U.S.C.
§ 20109. His claim brought under subsection (b),
concerning “hazardous safety or security conditions,
” is the subject of the current motion to dismiss.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation marks and
citation omitted). “Under Rule 12(b)(6), a claim should
not be dismissed unless the court determines that it is
beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove a plausible set
of facts that support the claim and would justify
relief.” Lane v. Halliburton, 529 F.3d 548,
557 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)).
contends that the medical symptoms he suffered while on duty
created a hazardous work condition that made it unsafe for
him to complete his shift or work during his ordered period
of rest. He argues that by notifying IC employees of his
suspected heart attack and subsequent treatment plan, his
refusal to work the following three days was protected by
subsection (b). Defendant disagrees, asserting that
subsection (b) only applies to hazardous conditions that are
within the railroad carrier's control.
Fifth Circuit has not answered the question currently pending
in this Court. Separate provisions in the FRSA, which more
directly embrace issues of medical treatment, may have
obviated the need for railroad employees to claim that a
self-reported illness qualifies as a hazardous work condition
under subsection (b), which provides in relevant part:
A railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce,
or an officer or employee of such a railroad carrier, shall
not discharge, demote, suspend, reprimand, or in any other
way discriminate against an employee for-- (A) reporting, in
good faith, a hazardous safety or security condition; (B)
refusing to work when confronted by a hazardous safety or
security condition related to the performance of the
49 U.S.C. § 20109(b)(1)(A)-(B).
only is self-reported infirmity absent from subsection (b),
it is explicitly present elsewhere in the FRSA. One section
states that a “railroad carrier . . . may not
discipline, or threaten discipline to, an employee for
requesting medical or first aid treatment, or for following
orders or a treatment plan of a treating physician.” 49
U.S.C. § 20109(c)(2). Another provides similar
protection for employees who “notify, or attempt to
notify, the railroad carrier or the Secretary of
Transportation of a work-related personal injury or
work-related illness of an employee.” 49 U.S.C. §
20109(a)(4). Reading protections for self-reported
illness into subsection (b) would render some portion of the
statute's text superfluous. See Clark v.
Rameker, 134 S.Ct. 2242, 2248 (2014) (“a statute
should be construed so that effect is given to all its
provisions, so that no part will be inoperative or
49 U.S.C. § 20109(c)-protecting employee action taken
under the direction of a treating physician-was added to the
FRSA as an amendment in 2008. Pub. L. No. 110-432, 122 Stat.
4848 (Oct. 16, 2008). The addition of that section presumably
provides protection that was not previously contained in the
statute. See Stone v. INS, 514 U.S. 386, 397 (1995)
(“When Congress acts to amend a statute, we presume it
intends its amendment to have real and substantial