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Trial begins in LIRR discrimination suit

Trial began Monday in federal court in Brooklyn in a lawsuit brought by a locomotive engineer against the Long Island Rail Road claiming that she was discriminated against following an allegation that she inappropriately touched another female engineer's breast.

Melissa Stampf, the plaintiff, denies that she touched the other engineer inappropriately in a 2006 incident at the West Side Rail Yards in Manhattan. She says she was disciplined more harshly than two white men previously accused of inappropriate behavior toward the same engineer because she is female, gay and Asian-American.

Stampf, 43, of Pennsylvania, was arrested after the incident by MTA police, but the Manhattan district attorney declined to prosecute. She received a 20-day suspension, which was reduced to 10 days by an arbitration panel. She claims that she suffered emotional distress and had to pay thousands to a lawyer to defend herself.

"The Long Island Rail Road treated Melissa Stampf differently than the white males," Stampf's lawyer Philip Dinhofer told the jury in his opening statement.

LIRR lawyer Brian Saltz countered: "Melissa Stampf was not suspended because she was a woman, because she was Asian or because she was gay."

The trial resumes Tuesday.

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