BNSF rescinds rule following UTU, SMWIA complaint

March 31, 2012

After BNSF announced it would demand highly personal information from employees relating to off-duty medical procedures and issues, the UTU and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate.

The proposed new carrier rule, said the UTU and SMWIA, is discriminatory and violates federal law by requiring workers to provide highly personal medical information.

Within days, BNSF rescinded the policy rather than face an EEOC investigation.

As the UTU and SMWIA documented in its complaint to the EEOC, BNSF had no statutory right to view the information – that its proposed rule was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by requiring that employees provide the railroad with doctor’s notes, diagnostic test results and hospital discharge summaries.

“Each day that BNSF’s policy remains in effect, more employees face the likelihood of having their statutory rights violated,” the UTU and SMWIA told the EEOC.

“And once an employee’s rights are violated – that is, once BNSF has been notified of the away-from-work medical condition or event and has obtained the employee’s statutorily-protected medical information – there is no way to undo the violation,” the UTU and SMWIA told the EEOC.

Additionally, said the UTU and SMWIA, the medical information that BNSF sought was likely to reveal a disability that is neither job related nor consistent with business necessity, and is likely to result in BNSF obtaining genetic information.
Moreover, the proposed BNSF rule would have discriminated against women affected by pregnancy and/or related medical conditions, the UTU and SMWIA told the EEOC.

Other labor organizations filed similar complaints with the EEOC.