ITHACA, N.Y. – A former TCAT driver says he was wrongfully terminated after being involved in a fatal crash in 2015. A police investigation exonerated him, but he says TCAT fired him anyway. He’s now suing the bus company, the labor union and its president.
Angela Stedwell, 55, was hit by a TCAT bus at 7:25 a.m. while crossing Jessup Road on Jan. 26, 2015. Stedwell was pronounced dead at the scene.
Following a months-long investigation, police determined that the bus driver at the time of the crash, Carlos Leonel Cruz, was not responsible for the crash or Stedwell’s death. According to court records, investigation reports showed an improper placement of the driver’s side mirror, creating a blind spot where Stedwell was walking at the time of the crash.
The mirror placement was allegedly reported to TCAT administrators and had not been fixed. No tickets were issued, and no criminal charges were filed after it was determined that Cruz did not violate any traffic laws.
Following his exoneration, Cruz was terminated from TCAT in 2016. According to Cruz, the notice attributed his termination to the crash saying, “the accident was preventable based on failure to observe Ms. Stedwell in the crosswalk.” Cruz stated in his complaint that he received no further or explanation regarding his termination.
Cruz said his termination violated the terms of United Automobile Workers Union collective bargaining agreement. Court documents state that Article 27 of the collective bargaining agreement says that an oral warning, two written warnings, and two periods of suspension without pay are supposed to precede termination of any union employee.
According to Cruz’s complaint, he was later called into the TCAT offices under the impression he was going to be re-hired. During the meeting, Cruz said he was instead asked to sign an official termination notice. According to his complaint, Cruz said that upon refusing to sign, he was met with threats that he would immediately lose his health insurance and he would not receive unemployment benefits.
Cruz filed a lawsuit on Jan. 11 this year, suing TCAT, the UAW labor union, and Jason David, the president of the union who Cruz said refused to pursue the collective bargaining deal.
The counts include a breach of National Labor Relations Act against UAW, a breach of the collective bargaining agreement in violation of Labor-Management Relations against TCAT, intentional infliction of emotional distress against David and UAW, negligent infliction of emotional distress against David, UAW and TCAT, and defamation against TCAT.
TCAT could not be reached for comment by publication time.
The case is scheduled for conference in Binghamton on May 4.