Conductor takes BNSF to court, asserts company fired her for reporting alleged assault

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Nov 18, 2013

GALVESTON - BNSF Railway Co. is the target of a federal lawsuit from a former employee who alleges she was released for issuing a workplace complaint.

Harris County resident Serena Howell sued BNSF in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas on Nov. 15 claiming she was assaulted before her supposed termination.

BNSF employed Howell as a train conductor at the time of the events for which she brings the suit.

The suit explains that on June 7, 2012, the plaintiff was ordered to meet the defendant's yardmaster after a shift though it was against its hours of service limit.

According to court papers, after she was confronted by the yardmaster, Howell was purportedly accosted and assaulted by Tashia Miller, an employee of BNSF's human resources department.

Miller, who is not a party in the case, "violently struck the plaintiff on her right hand," the original petition says.

Howell was diagnosed by hospital physicians with a "contusion of her right hand."

She claims she reported the attack to the Houston Police Department as well as filed a written report with the respondent, which conducted an investigation through its own police department.

The suit further shows that said investigation "quickly deteriorated into a retaliatory action against the plaintiff," adding BNSF accused her of "reporting dishonest information."

The company fired Howell for purportedly supplying false information to which she counters was done to her out of retaliation.

A jury trial is requested.

Attorney Gregory G. Paul of Morgan & Paul PLLC in Sewickly, Pa., is representing the complainant.

Case No. 3:13-CV-421

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