Cases & Deals

CSXT wins important clarification of "knowledge" standard under federal whistleblower law

Client(s) CSX Transportation, Inc.

The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of Jones Day client CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSXT") in an important case regarding the correct legal standard for establishing employer knowledge of protected activity under the Federal Railroad Safety Act ("FRSA"). Plaintiff, a CSXT employee, alleged that the company retaliated against him for reporting safety concerns by issuing certain discipline. Plaintiff was unable to show, however, that the individual who imposed discipline, or the managers who charged the employee with rule violations, knew of his protected conduct. Plaintiff argued instead that it was sufficient that any CSXT manager knew of the conduct. The district court granted summary judgment to CSXT on the knowledge element of his claim. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that "the 'knowledge' relevant for a retaliation claim under the FRSA must be tied to the decision-maker involved in the unfavorable personnel action." Because Plaintiff could not meet that standard, the Fourth Circuit entered judgment in CSXT's favor. This case is important not just for matters arising under the FRSA, but for matters arising under other whistleblower statutes, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, that employ the same burden-shifting standard.

Conrad v. CSX Transportation, Inc., Case No. 15-1035 (4th Cir.)