Why Congress Should Repeal the Federal Employer's Liability Act of 1908




Baker, Thomas E.

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Harvard Journal on Legislation


The Federal Employers' Liability Act of 1908 establishes a fault-based system of recovery for railroad employees suffering workplace injuries. The FELA requires that injured workers show that their injuries are attributable, in whole or in part, to the negligence of officers, agents, or employees of the railroad in order to be compensated. Professor Baker examines the current system under the FELA and argues that the societal, industrial, and legal environments that warranted the FELA's enactment in 1908 do not justify the statute's continued existence today. He argues that the FELA fails when measured against the contemporary public policy criteria of encouraging safety, assuring just compensation and rehabilitation, providing administrative efficiency, and pursuing sound transportation policy. Finally, the author concludes that the FELA should be repealed and that railway employees' claims should be subsumed under state workers' compensation statutes.



FELA, Worker's compensation, Railroad employees


29 Harv. J. On Legis. 79