Former CATS bus operators claim retaliation after speaking up about safety issues

WBTV has learned the terminations happened after incidents on the job involving safety violations.
WBTV has learned the terminations happened after incidents on the job involving safety violations.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 10:47 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Two former CATS bus operators claim they were terminated in retaliation for speaking up about safety concerns following the murder of a fellow Charlotte Area Transit System driver.

WBTV has learned the terminations happened after incidents on the job involving safety violations.

The operators claim these kinds of violations don’t always lead to termination.

Ethan Rivera was killed on the job in February of 2022.

It sparked calls for safety changes from operators in the days after his murder.

Some of the operators who called for change are no longer drivers and they’re claiming retaliation.

CATS and the company that employs the operators declined to comment.

“When you’re viewed as that mouth, they’re going to definitely stick it to you and right now I feel like it’s being stuck to me,” said Gia Lockhart, a former CATS bus operator.

Lockhart is claiming retaliation after she was fired for a safety violation for failure to secure a bus.

She has been vocal about improving the safety of bus operators since 2022.

Lockhart said, “to be one of those people who stood up for us that way that I did when Ethan was killed and now I’m on the other side of that line of being terminated, it’s hard, it’s real hard and it’s been hard.”

Lockhart said the incident involved an electric bus she doesn’t operate daily.

She told WBTV the bus stopped working and that a supervisor told her to move the bus on July 9th.

After attempting to move it, the bus moved backwards, which according to Lockhart’s termination letter, caused an unsafe situation.

“I feel like I’ve been treated unfairly,” said Lockhart.

Lockhart claims she is not the only one who has been fired for speaking out.

Veronica Wallace, a bus operator and union rep, says she worked behind the scenes for safety changes, was also fired for not securing a bus.

“I would like to believe when they say this isn’t about that, that they’re speaking the truth, but sometimes I have to wonder is it retaliatory, is it a way to stop us,” said Veronica Wallace.

She appealed to Transit Management of Charlotte and was not reinstated.

“I actually gave them cause here, so my fear right now is that the next person that wants to run for this job won’t, because of what happened to me,” said Wallace.

Lockhart had her third step to get reinstated Wednesday, but there’s no decision.

“It makes me feel very, very sickened that the city that I look at, the city where I worked for, the city that I moved has turned it’s back on me, for, the city that I move,” said Lockhart.

CATS didn’t comment and referred us to the company that oversees bus operators, Transit Management of Charlotte.

The parent company said, “Per company policy, RATP Dev USA does not comment on employment status.”

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