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Court of Appeals overturns FRSA Medical Note Case, Bala v PATH

In a recent case (Bala v. PATH) the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that railroad workers are subject to discipline for “excessive absenteeism” for non-work related injuries despite getting a note from their treating physician. This decision narrows the scope of the Federal Rail Safety Act Subsection c (2) as it pertains to non-work related absences.

Prior to this ruling, the Department of Labor prohibited railroads from disciplining employees for staying out of work, if they were following their treating physician’s treatment plan. The Court of Appeals has now limited this FRSA protection to work related injuries.

This ruling could have serious implications for Rail Safety, if sick workers continue to work to avoid being disciplined. A seriously ill worker creates a potential safety hazard for himself, fellow employees and the public by coming to work against the advice of his doctor. Safety, not the cause of the impairment should be the focus of the FRSA.

Similar cases are pending in other U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Bala decision may be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. If you have any questions about the FRSA, FELA or any other Railroad Safety concern contact the Naumes Law Group at 617-227-8444 or

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