October 14, 2008

CHICAGO (Oct. 14)—Based on a UTU Complaint, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) investigators have confirmed that Amtrak supervisors violated the Federal Hours of Service Law (HSL) last April when they held a train crew for an interrogation which exceeded the crew’s 12-hour workday.

In an October 8 letter, Region IV FRA Administrator Laurence H. Hasvold told UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo that the crew of Amtrak train No. 370, was detained April 21 at Grand Rapids, Mich., after failing an efficiency test en route from Chicago.

Hasvold said the crew reported for duty in Chicago at 4:35 p.m. CDT and was not released from duty until 6:21 a.m. EDT the following day, for a total of 12 hours and 46 minutes of covered service.

“This equates to 46 minutes of excess service,” Hasvold told Szabo. He said the Region IV office recommended that Amtrak be assessed a civil penalty—FRA language for a fine—in connection with the incident.

”This is another case of railroad supervisors failing to understand that when a crew is held by the carrier at the conclusion of its assignment – for almost any reason – the federal government considers the crew members to be still on duty for Hours of Service purposes,” Szabo said. “If the crew’s work time aboard the train plus the time spent being interrogated totals more than 12 hours, the railroad is just as guilty of violating the Hours of Service Law as if all of the crew’s time was spent performing work.”

Szabo said the same would be true if an injured employee was required to return to the property after treatment for questioning or to perform a reenactment.

“In that case the time actually working, receiving medical treatment, then being subject to mandatory questioning would be co-mingled service and subject to the same 12 hour limit,” he said.

Szabo advised crews held on the property beyond the 12-hour limit to advise railroad officials of the approaching time limit but not to be insubordinate.

“Do as told,” Szabo said. “But after you are released, note down the circumstances of your detention, including the date, the time, the names of the railroad supervisors who detained you beyond your 12-hour limit, the names of any witnesses present, and any threatening or intimidating language that was used.

“Turn this material over to your Local Chairman or Local Legislative Representative and they will forward it to my office for handling with FRA,” Szabo said. “On the first offense the FRA may fine only the carrier. But if a supervisor commits repeat violations he could be subject to personal liability.

“As this latest incident proves, the union is very successful in winning cases based on HSL violations. When our members document facts, we get results.”