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Employees Sue Railroad Over Social Security Number Theft

The lawsuit claims that Union Pacific acted negligently by failing to protect the data.

July 05, 2006|From the Associated Press

Concerns about identity theft prompted a group of nine Union Pacific Corp. employees to sue the nation's largest railroad over its use of Social Security numbers to identify employees.

The Omaha-based company said in May that a computer with names and Social Security numbers of 30,000 current or retired Union Pacific employees had been stolen from a personnel employee April 29.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, by the nine railroad employees on behalf of a class that could include 30,000 members, according to the lawsuit.

A Union Pacific spokesman said this week that company attorneys had not yet seen the lawsuit and had no comment.

A company spokeswoman said in May that Union Pacific had notified the 30,000 people affected, paid for their credit monitoring for a year and encouraged them to put fraud alerts on their accounts. The employee violated company policy by transferring work files to a private computer to work on at home, and the private computer was stolen, the spokeswoman said.

One of the plaintiffs said employees continued to be put at risk every day because Social Security numbers were used to get routine information at work.

"We're concerned about the possibility of identity theft, and [Union Pacific] only wanted to offer one year of fraud protection," William Platt said.

Platt said he must use his Social Security number to find out information such as the hours of his next work shift, even though he also had another employee identification number.

The lawsuit asserts that Union Pacific acted negligently by failing to protect employees' Social Security numbers, by using them for purposes other than tax reporting and by failing to use other employee-identifying numbers.

The plaintiffs requested an unspecified amount of punitive damages and a jury trial.

Union Pacific operates 38,654 miles of track in 23 states from the Midwest to the West and Gulf coasts.

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