T faces $850,000 judgment in ‘grudge’ case

Appeals Court upholds whistleblower complaint

THE STATE APPEALS COURT on Monday upheld a judgment of more than $850,000 against the MBTA for allowing a manager with a 10-year-old grudge against a fellow employee to use his connections at the agency to force the worker into retirement.

According to the decision, the employee, Thomas Tryon, learned about the scheme from the T manager who forced him out when they were both being represented by the same attorney in separate lawsuits against the MBTA.

The source of the grudge dates to 2001, when Tryon, who was then the superintendent of maintenance of way, visited a work site and discovered a crew was not present at the time they were scheduled to be working overtime. Crew members, including Patrick Kineavy, were docked pay for the infraction. They filed complaints against Tryon, alleging “harassment and retaliation,” but those went nowhere.

Close to nine years later, Kineavy sought his revenge, according to the Appeals Court decision. Both he and Tryon were working in the maintenance of way division and reporting to a new superior, Stephen Trychon. Trychon, at the suggestion of Kineavy, initially shifted Tryon to a night job and then maneuvered him out of that job, according to the decision.  With no other prospects at the agency and facing the likelihood he would have to report to Kineavy if he stayed on, Tryon retired in January 2011, filing an age discrimination complaint based on comments made by Trychon at the time.

Two years later, however, Trychon and Tryon were both being represented by the same lawyer and apparently Trychon decided to fill Tryon in on what actually happened. “Trychon told Tryon that he had not lost his position because of his age. Trychon told Tryon that Kineavy had told Trychon that Tryon was a bad worker, had asked Trychon to move Tryon to nights, had asked Trychon to eliminate Tryon’s job, and had asked Trychon to inform Tryon that his job would be eliminated,” according to the decision.

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Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Tryon subsequently shifted his lawsuit to a whistleblower complaint, which protects employees from retaliation if they report activity they believe to be a violation of law. After a jury trial in 2014, Tryon was awarded $277,919 in lost wages and pension benefits, which was tripled by the jury because the MBTA had “acted with evil motives and reckless indifference to Tryon’s rights.” Another $22,081 was awarded in emotional distress damages.

The MBTA appealed the lower court decision on several mostly technical grounds, all of which were rejected by the Appeals Court on Monday. The court also held that Tryon could collect money to recover his attorney fees from the MBTA.