Metro worker who was reported by author for eating on train won't face disciplinary action

The Metro worker said she was unaware Natasha Tynes had taken or posted her photo until she was sent screenshots of it Friday.
Image: Metro trains arrive at Union Station in Washington on March 15, 2016.
Union Station in Washington.Joshua Roberts / Reuters file

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By Janelle Griffith

A Washington transit worker who was reported to her bosses on social media by author Natasha Tynes for eating on the train will not face disciplinary action, an official from the Metro workers union said Monday.

Barry Hobson, the chief of staff for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, told NBC News that Paul Wiedefeld, the general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said there would be no action taken against the woman.

Tynes, a writer and World Bank employee in Washington, posted a photo on Twitter of the woman, who has not been publicly identified, eating on the train in uniform Friday morning.

"When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train," Tynes wrote in a tweet. “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds. When I asked the employee about this, her response was, ‘worry about yourself.'"

Tynes, who has not returned NBC News' request for comment, apologized a day later after facing backlash from some social media users and deleted her Twitter post. She also set her account to private Saturday and then deactivated it Sunday.

The publishing house distributing Tynes' upcoming novel, “They Called Me Wyatt,” dropped her over the weekend and her publisher delayed the planned release of the book. Tynes is Jordanian American and has described herself as a “minority writer." The transit worker is black.

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Eating, drinking, smoking and littering are banned on Metro buses or trains and in stations. However, the Metro Transit police chief had advised officers in a Wednesday email to stop writing tickets for fare evasion, eating, drinking, spitting and playing music without headphones until further notice.

"The operator was aware of the email that came out from the head of the transit police," Hobson said.

A Metro spokeswoman said Monday, "As is our practice, we do not comment on personnel matters; however, speaking generally, this kind of incident wouldn’t be expected to result in more than counseling for a first offense."

The bus operator is not permitted to speak to the media per the terms of her union contract, Hobson said, however, he described her as a veteran employee who has worked for the Metro since 2001. He said she was taking her meal break Friday morning while in transit from one assignment to another.

"Generally, she would have gotten to her next stop and had her breakfast," he said. "But the train was late. So she thought, 'I'm just going to throw my breakfast down now.'"

The woman told Hobson she was unaware Tynes had taken or posted her photo until she was sent screenshots of it Friday.

"She is very concerned and very embarrassed that the patron did share her photo," Hobson said. "She has totally taken responsibility for what she did."

He also said that she would have had no problem if Tynes made a formal complaint about her without posting her photo online.

"To take her photo ... she has had to endure some of the backlash made about her race, about her appearance," Hobson said.

Metro operators have “an average of 20 minutes to consume a meal and get to their next access point to ensure all buses and trains are on time, safe and ready to serve the riding public,” Hobson said.