NJ Transit fires engineer who says railroad cuts corners on safety
A former NJ Transit employee is suing the agency and her union claiming she was fired for being a whistleblower.
Jodi Asay, of Ewing, says that NJ Transit engaged in "short turns" with scheduling didn't leave enough time for engineers to do a required inspection of the train before it's next run.
The suit claims that in 2014, "in an effort to reduce time between train trips and therefore increase the number of train trips over the course of each day, week, month and year, New Jersey Transit cuts corners on the safety inspections, abbreviating them or eliminating them altogether on various trips each day," which the suit called "a violation of public policy" that puts riders in danger.
Asay said she filed a grievance with her union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the state Department of Transportation, then-Gov. Chris Christie and Liberty Mutual, the agency's insurance carrier.
According to the lawsuit filed in Superior Court, Asay believes this triggered a "pattern of retaliation and retribution for her whistleblowing. She says "false and bogus" charges of driving a train too fast at New York Penn Station and violating a stop signal were brought against her to get her fired. She was terminated in December 2017.
Besides NJ Transit, the lawsuit also goes after David Decker, the head of the New Jersey Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers at the time, and his predecessor, James P. Brown, as well as and NJ Transit employees Fred Mattison, Alan Antell and Donald Brochardt, who were involved in Asay's disciplinary hearings.
Asay is seeking expungement of all references to disciplinary action, compensatory damages for mental anguish and emotional distress, compensatory damages for economic losses due to the agency's conduct and special damages for all litigation costs including expert’s fees and attorney fees. She also requested a jury trial.
NJ Transit did not return a request for comment about the lawsuit. Spokeswoman Nancy Snyder told the North Jersey Record that the agency runs a safe railroad and fully complies with all federally required safety inspections."
This is not the only whistleblower complaint against the transit company.
Todd Baretta, hired by NJ Transit as chief compliance officer in 2016, said last year that he was fired after bringing attention to dozens of safety violations he said later was part of a "constant culture of non-compliance."
NJ Transit's then-executive director, Steven Santoro, said Barretta had been suspended a month earlier for “significant misuse” of his agency-assigned vehicle, then ultimately terminated after just six months on the job. His termination letter said he lost his job because he didn’t turn in an agency laptop as requested – though Barretta has a records receipt showing it had been turned in.
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