New Jersey Transit has paid nearly $700,000 to an employee who said in a whistleblower lawsuit he was suspended without pay for reporting the electrocution of a fellow worker and seeking counseling for himself, his attorney said Thursday.
Attorney Charlie Goetsch, who represents Anthony Araujo, said the settlement was paid Thursday. NJ Transit's board previously approved the settlement amount, but a spokeswoman said the agency wouldn't comment on the settlement Thursday.
Araujo was a flagman conductor working in Newark in 2008 when a member of a work crew was fatally burned by a live wire. According to court papers, his lawsuit said he was suspended after he sought out NJ Transit's employee assistance program because he'd been traumatized by witnessing the accident.
Araujo said his suspension caused him to lose his home, car and good credit rating.
According to court documents, NJ Transit argued that Araujo was suspended because an investigation concluded that he was partially responsible for the accident because he violated safety rules.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration ordered NJ Transit to pay Araujo more than $500,000 in 2010 for lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages. NJ Transit appealed, and in a 2012 opinion a U.S. District Court judge in Newark sided with the agency. But the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in 2013 and sent the case back to the District Court for a trial. The monetary settlement was reached earlier this year.
Goetsch said the settlement is the largest amount in a railroad whistleblower case since the Federal Rail Safety Act, a whistleblower protection act, was passed in 2007.