Metro employees sometimes don't report safety issues they see on the system because they fear retribution, workers said in a hearing Wednesday.
The comments came during an National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing examining Metro's efforts to enhance safety in the wake of a electrical malfunction that filled a tunnel with smoke, killing one woman and sickening more than 80.
The concern over potential retaliation was a focal point of the overall safety discussion Wednesday. Many train and bus operators, as well as maintenance workers on the tracks, aren't speaking up because they don't want the trouble associated with it.
When asked whether workers might fear retaliation from their coworkers, Metro's acting General Manager Jack Requa responded, "I haven't heard that specifically, but I would think that if you expressed a concern about a fellow employee that there might be some reason to believe that."
Metro says it has conducted surveys that show 80 percent of its employees do feel like they can speak up safely -- but the remaining 20 percent are worried.
"I think it's a cultural thing within organizations," Requa said. "We have 13,000 employees. We are trying to find opportunities for employees to express their concerns."
One Metro operator, who asked to be kept anonymous, told News4 on Wednesday that the fear is real. She says she was told not to speak up because "it will come back to haunt you."
She claims that she and others who have spoken out in the past have been retaliated against.
Metro says it does have a way to report issues anonymously. In 2013, the transit agency launched a program in cooperation with the union that allows employees to report safety lapses anonymously.
Union official James Madaras said reports under the program are on the rise, but some employees still have the "misconception" that they'll face discipline for speaking out.