Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission’s board yesterday approved, in a terse meeting, a $107,000 settlement for an employee of its former contractor RTC officials fired in 2019.
The employee, a dispatcher, was dismissed by RTC’s former Director of Public Transportation, David Jickling, under RTC’s ability to terminate an employee of one of their contractors – in this case, MV Transportation.
The employee in April prevailed in an arbitration against RTC. That was the second time the case had been under arbitration. The employee prevailed both times.
The first arbitrator said Jickling provided only vague rationales for the dispatcher’s firing. The dispatcher was placed on paid leave in June of 2018.
“Efforts by the Company to seek further information from Mr. Jickling were met with terse and blunt replies, denying any further information,” the first arbitrator, Frederick Day, determined.
Even MV Transportation could not get adequate answers about the employee’s firing, according to Day.
“The Company attempted to receive further information regarding the allegations made against the Grievant, and was greeted with continued refusal to provide further information,” Day wrote. “Mr. Jickling replied, ‘The RTC has nothing more too [sic] say regarding this matter.’ RTC’s Counsel replied that his client. ‘…decided not to provide any Information.’”
Day added, however, that MV Transportation “did not act in good faith when it complied with the third party demands.” Further, “The evidence clearly contradicts that the ‘third party’ (RTC) acted in good faith when it demanded the Grievant’s removal.”
Day said MV Transportation was a victim of RTC’s “unsupported demand.” Day said the firing was unjust and MV Transportation was told to reinstate the employee with back pay.
That didn’t happen.
MV Transportation instead offered the dispatcher a bus-driving job at Lake Tahoe, which she declined, citing travel inconveniences. The dispatcher could have been rehired by Keolis when it took over transit operations for RTC in 2019, but the 202 firing by RTC prevented that from happening.
“The conduct of RTC, primarily through David Jickling, clearly and intentionally interfered with Plaintiff’s prospective employment opportunity and Plaintiff to not be hired to earn a living,” a second arbitrator wrote.
The dispatcher filed a lawsuit in 2021. The case went back to arbitration this year. A new arbitrator also said Jickling and RTC wrongfully terminated the dispatcher.
“At the heart of this case is the infamous 202 letter authored by David Jickling on behalf of RTC with the approval of its executive director,” arbitrator Michael Sullivan wrote. “David Jickling’s testimony was not credible and actually supported Plaintiff’s theory of the case.”
The firing was based in part on what the arbitrator called untrue and fallacious allegations by another employee, which he said Jickling failed to substantiate.
“Her employment record is unblemished,” Day wrote.
The arbitrator awarded $50,000 in damages to the dispatcher, the maximum he could issue as an award. Instead of going to trial, the matter was settled yesterday for $107,000.
RTC hired the Woodburn & Wedge law firm to defend itself in the case. Attorney Chris Wicker in 2021 said in a court filing that the dispatcher’s complaint should be dismissed and she should have to pay RTC’s attorney fees.
RTC’s Lauren Ball said would not comment for this story. She said, however, “this lawsuit revolved around contract-administration activities that took place years ago.”
RTC commissioners yesterday were mum on the matter, other than voting to approve the settlement during an eight-minute meeting.
Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson yesterday spoke during public comment about this case.
“Unfortunately, our transit system is in dire need of employees, and they have a massive turnover rate. As of now, the RTC has blatantly ignored the arbitrator’s decision at the expense of our tax dollars. This should be criminal,” he said. “Throwing the public’s money at a bunch of ambulance chasers does not fix communication and labor relations, but it will continue to divide us.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.