BLET gets $1.3 million award at LIRR

Court settles 7,500 outstanding claims from 1998-2004

A United States District Judge sided with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen on March 24 in a case that awards approximately $1.3 million in back payments to union members who work at the Long Island Rail Road.

The Order, entered by U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry of the Eastern District of New York, enforces the 2006 decision of Public Law Board 6846, which settled approximately 7,500 outstanding claims from BLET members totaling $1.3 million.

Article 28 of the BLET's collective bargaining agreement with LIRR describes the procedure by which LIRR employees may submit claims for compensation. According to Article 28(c), once an employee submits a claim for compensation, if the LIRR does not notify the employee and the General Chairman of the union of its denial of the claim, in writing, within 30 calendar days from the date the claims were presented, then "the claim shall be allowed."

Between 1998 and 2004, LIRR engineers filed numerous claims in accordance with the procedures set forth in Article 29 of the agreement. In many instances, the LIRR did not notify the employees or the General Chairmen in writing, within the 30 day time limit, that the claims were denied. Accordingly, pursuant to Article 28(c) of the agreement, the union demanded that those claims be allowed.

On August 18, 2006, Public Law Board 6846 issued a final award in favor of the union. The Award settled approximately 7,500 claims totaling approximately $1.3 million. However, LIRR paid only a portion of the claims, arguing that certain categories of claims were not covered by the Award. The BLET then pursued the matter in District Court.

In court, LIRR argued that the PLB 6846 Award was ambiguous regarding the BLET's claims.

U.S. District Judge Irizarry found that there was no question that the union was claiming approximately $1.3 million for over 7,500 claims in the PLB proceeding, and that there was no ambiguity over the claims the railroad must pay.

"LIRR's elaborate argument merely attempts to obfuscate the simple principles that are applicable here," Jude Irizarry's Order read.

LIRR also argued that there was a conflict between the Award of PLB 6846 and other PLB decisions. However, the Judge ruled that LIRR was foreclosed from arguing that prior awards are contrary and binding because it failed to raise that argument before the original PLB.

"The insuperable problem here is that the LIRR could have raised this argument before PLB 6846 but, for some inexplicable reason, failed to do so," Judge Irizarry ordered.

The court also awarded the BLET its attorneys' fees, and union attorneys will also seek to obtain interest from the date of the original the $1.3 million award.

Front: Melanie Kern. Second row: Rich MacDonald and John Hardecker. Third row: Jim Brown, Scott Decker, Rich Martorano and Pete Peterson. Back row: John Bove, Andrew Cummings, Mickey Quinn, Jim Scheidet and Bob Olsen.


© 2008 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen