- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Two men who worked for a North Dakota railroad say they were wrongly fired after they testified for a fellow employee who was injured on the job.

Timothy Prescott and Troy Whitney have filed federal whistleblower lawsuits against Wahpeton-based Red River Valley & Western Railroad Co.

The men were part of a maintenance crew based in Carrington and say they were fired Dec. 2, 2014, shortly after the railroad settled a complaint by Bradley Schaack, who was injured in 2012 when a hydraulic wrench malfunctioned. The men also allege in the suit that they were fired “for testifying truthfully about hazardous safety conditions and policies.”

But the railroad said Prescott and Whitney were fired for a “legitimate, non-retaliatory reason,” it said in its response filed Tuesday, including waiting 2½ years to report that the use of an unsafe tool caused an injury instead of doing so immediately.

Lawyers in June 2014 called Prescott and Whitney to testify about Schaack’s case, at which time the men reported hazardous workplace safety conditions and violations. The men told attorneys that Schaack was not at fault for his injury.

Prescott said that after his deposition, he was summoned to meet with managers at the company’s corporate headquarters and felt threatened at the time about losing his job.

“He was specifically asked about the safety concerns he reported during his deposition, and was specifically asked to review his answers to the question about whether or not Schaack had done anything wrong,” the suit says. Managers picked out three questions in Prescott’s deposition they wanted him to reconsider, according to the complaint.

The railroad “strenuously denies” that Prescott was asked to reconsider his testimony.

“During the investigation, plaintiff was asked about his role as foreman of the maintenance of way crew the day of the incident, why he allowed a crew member to use a defective tool and did not report it to management until near two and a half years after the injury to the employee,” the company says in court documents.

Prescott and Whitney are seeking unspecified damages.

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