Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: metraRI, JamesT4

  by metraRI
Interesting article in the Chciago Tribune.

"Three Metra engineers who were fired after a 2004 River Grove accident that killed a 10-year-old boy should be reinstated with back pay because the hearing officer did not conduct a fair disciplinary hearing, federal arbitrators have ruled.

Because the employees were not allowed to introduce evidence that was potentially significant, the lack of a fair hearing is a "substantive and serious abridgment" of the employees' rights, the arbitrators wrote.

Arbitrators also found that the hearing officer served as an advocate for Metra, a troubling situation given that Metra's top safety official had pronounced the engineers guilty to the media shortly after the Feb. 23, 2004, accident, which killed Michael DeLarco of Schaumburg, the arbitrators found. The safety officer's comments were cited in a Tribune article, the decision stated.

The Aug. 31 ruling did not address whether the engineers were responsible for the accident, but it called the disciplinary proceeding a "railroad job." The board ruled that the engineers should be reinstated within 30 days.

Michael DeLarco, a 5th grader, was struck by a westbound express train while crossing the tracks at River Grove. He had just gotten off an eastbound train and started across a pedestrian walkway, steps ahead of his mother and sister, as his train cleared the crossing.

Metra's investigation found the engineers on both trains at fault: The eastbound train should have waited to discharge or take on passengers at the station until the express train had passed, or the westbound train should have reduced speed to avoid entering the station until the eastbound train had traveled a safe distance away. The engineers should have communicated with each other to determine which action to take.

Metra also found that the engineers had tried to cover up by saying a freight train on an adjacent track had obstructed their view. The closest freight train was three miles away, the investigation found.

Metra officials are considering their options, agency spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said Friday.

Arbitrators ruled that a hearing officer must be a gatherer of facts, not a prosecutor, and the employees must be given the opportunity to present evidence that would help their case. But a review of the transcript shows that the hearing officer "either did not understand or did not accept his role as a neutral gatherer of facts and that he fell short of producing a complete record," the ruling said."

  by Engineer Spike
For those not in the industry, these hearings are a kangaroo court. They are run by a company officer, who finds what his boss tells him.
Often the arbirator will find that the investigation was improperly handled. All of this process falls under the Railway Labor Act.