Employees Allege Metro-North Retaliated Against Them For Raising Safety Concerns: Lawsuit

Three Metro-North employees from Connecticut are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit alleging their employer punished them for raising safety concerns. 

Two similar lawsuits have also recently been filed in the Southern District of New York.

Seven months after a Metro-North train struck and killed 52-year-old foreman Robert Luden on the tracks in West Haven, the plaintiffs from the power department claim the railroad company started retaliating against them after they refused to do an assignment they say violated safety regulations.

A federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York alleges Metro-North reduced overtime pay opportunities and threatened future job prospects for James Linkenhoker of Fairfield, James Provo of Southington and Gary Vaspasiano of East Haven.

Then in August 2015, the three men and a fourth plaintiff from New Jersey allege they were assigned to a task they did not feel safe performing. The lawsuit states the refusal to do that work resulted in 61 day suspensions without pay for insubordination.

Each of the Metro-North employees is seeking $450,000 in damages.

Marc Wietzke, the Long Island-based attorney for the railroad workers, said over the phone there had been “close calls” before they spoke up about the safety concerns.

"Any retaliation against workers with safety complaints is absolutely abhorrent and unacceptable," Senator Richard Blumenthal said. "I will demand answers from Metro-North."

A spokesperson told NBC Connecticut Metro-North does not comment on pending litigation.

Since a critical report from the NTSB was released in 2014, Metro-North has followed through on recommendations to improve safety.

In January 2016, Metro-North announced the implementation of Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), an initiative the company says is “industry-leading” in encouraging workers to report potential safety hazards or violations of protocols.

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