An exhibit photo from the inspector general's office of the...

An exhibit photo from the inspector general's office of the space where the workers were found asleep.   Credit: MTA Inspector General

A pair of LIRR workers responsible for plugging overnight staffing shortages were suspended after they were found sleeping on makeshift beds in a dark Queens office, according to a report from the MTA’s internal watchdog.

One of the workers, a supervising crew dispatcher, was suspended for 15 days and agreed to work during that time for 75% of his regular pay, which amounted to a $490 pay cut. The other worker, a crew dispatcher, agreed to a serve a 10-day suspension while working for 75% of his regular pay, resulting in a $450 cut.

What to know

Investigators from the MTA’s office of the inspector general found a Long Island Rail Road supervising crew dispatcher and his assigned dispatcher sleeping soundly across two office chairs, covered with blankets at 3 a.m. on Oct. 1. 

The workers are responsible for filling staffing shortages that arise overnight.

The supervisor was suspended for 15 days with 75 % of his regular pay while continuing to report to work during the suspension. The crew dispatcher agreed to serve a 10-day suspension for 75% of his regular pay while continuing to report to work. 

The supervisor led an effort to bring in blankets and rearrange office furniture "to sleep while on the taxpayer’s dime," Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny tweeted Thursday morning.

The sleeping workers were discovered when investigators from the MTA inspector general’s office made a surprise visit to the Transportation Crew Management Office in Jamaica at 3 a.m. Oct. 1.

The probe was sparked after an anonymous tipster complained that the overnight dispatching team was snoozing on duty and yelling at co-workers who tried to rouse them, according to the report.

Once inside the unlit office, investigators, beaming their flashlights, spotted the supervising crew dispatcher and his assigned dispatcher sleeping soundly across two office chairs, covered with blankets. The supervisor had even tied his two chairs together, the report said.

The dispatcher woke up after a light flashed in his face, prompting him to ask: "Who are you?" After investigators identified themselves, the supervisor also got up, admitting he was in charge.

When the lights were turned on, investigators also noticed another dispatcher sitting by his desk in the back of the office, but it was unclear whether that worker, whose computer was on, also was asleep.

As a result of the investigation, the Long Island Rail Road accused the supervisor and the assigned crew member of conduct unbecoming an LIRR employee and sleeping or assuming the position of sleep while on duty. The supervisor was additionally accused of dereliction of duty as a supervisor. Their names were not released.

The third worker was not disciplined because the agency was unable to confirm the employee was asleep.

"Here, the dispatcher and supervisor violated the public trust by sleeping when they were supposed to be working. Their duties required them to be awake in the event a colleague was needed for dispatch. The fact that the OIG found them unresponsive when entering their office leads to question if they would have been responsive to calls for dispatch," the report states.

The overnight transportation team is responsible for dealing with any staffing issues related to transportation, craftsmen, yard masters, block operators, and conductors.

The office of the inspector general had initially recommended that the supervisor and assigned dispatcher both be disciplined or terminated. It is believed the behavior occurred frequently, per the report.

"The LIRR expects all employees to be engaged and attentive while at work. Failure to do so is unacceptable, and the railroad has assessed maximum possible discipline," said Dave Steckel, a spokesperson for the MTA, the LIRR's parent organization.

LIRR Commuter Council chairman Gerard Bringmann said the disciplinary action was not harsh enough.

"Dispatching is a critical function, even overnight when things are relatively quiet, so the punishment was far from fitting the crime. These guys got off very light. Personally, I feel they're lucky they managed to keep their jobs," Bringmann said.

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