Michaela Brant / Gavel Media

MBTA's "Highest Earner" on Trial for Sexual Misconduct

A former MBTA electrical inspector has been accused of sexual misconduct for an incident that occurred on January 5th during a commute between the MBTA’s Forest Hills and Charlestown Yard stations. John P. Keady Jr, a long-time MBTA employee, threatened to rape a younger female coworker after she suggested hiring more electricians to help with the increasing workload. According to the MBTA Transit Police report, Keady stated, “No, don’t do that, if you do that, I’ll rape you.” Following the threat, the younger coworker reported the incident to their boss alongside the MBTA Transit Police. Keady was placed on administrative leave shortly thereafter and was allowed to retire on June 1st. Keady and his legal representative attempted to get the case dismissed, stating that Keady’s threat was merely an excessive hyperbole rather than a “true threat” and that the defendant had no intentions of acting upon it. Judge David J. Breen rejected the dismissal on August 24th.

Keady was scheduled for trial in late September, which has received zero media coverage and an utter lack of released court documents, pointing towards the intentional lack of transparency of such a high-profile case. Whether a plea deal was taken behind closed doors and a resolution has been reached is only part of the question. The MBTA’s role in this case must also be called into question, as their statement was both extremely short and meaningless. 

Meanwhile, other MBTA-related headlines have made waves, such as the inactivity of the Orange Line or the recent failure of a Commuter Rail Train this past August. Both of these are due to electrical issues, which draws connections between those issues and Keady’s threat. Whether the lack of media coverage was intentional, however, is still unclear. The MBTA needs to take responsibility for its subpar treatment of not only this serious matter but also the various electrical malfunctions that have plagued patrons recently. Their issue not only lies in accountability but also in their favoritism towards workers such as Keady. As long as we have people like Keady behind the scenes maintaining the MBTA’s trains, we will continue to face issue after issue, as their current workforce capabilities cannot handle their workload.

Despite the obvious downplaying on the MBTA’s part, it does not hide the fact that there are obvious flaws in the system. Keady was, after all, the highest earner for the MBTA, making $346,136 in 2021 alone as an electrical inspector. Before retiring, he had made $132,258 in 2022, and a breakdown of that salary shows that only $76,380 was in base pay, the other part being $38,484 in overtime pay and $17,393 in unused vacation time. This number is staggering considering he was placed on administrative leave for a large part of the year following the threat. Keady has been averaging over 300k a year in pay consistently, earning more than even general managers. This pay discrepancy points to an obvious motive behind the “hyperbolic” threat. Keady’s livelihood was seemingly at stake, as more workers would mean less overtime for him. 

Now, this directs attention toward unjust union practices and a broken salary system on the MBTA’s part. With the growing number of electrical failures on MBTA trains, another pertinent issue is drawn into the picture. From August 19th to September 19th, the MBTA’s Orange Line was shut down, citing multiple issues requiring a month’s work of training and repairs. The shutdown follows an incident in mid-May where an Orange Line train caught on fire, leading passengers to climb out of windows to escape. A similar incident occurred this past August, where a train on the Commuter Rail lost electricity, leaving passengers trapped inside in the sweltering heat, and prompting some to climb out of emergency exits to desert the train against officials' wishes. In total, there have been approximately 13 recent MBTA safety issues, a number of which cite electrical issues as part of the problem. At the same time that taxpayers and patrons of the MBTA face numerous roadblocks on their daily commutes, high-earning employees such as Keady reap disproportionate earnings while not fixing said roadblocks. 

At the core of this predicament, we find out something important about not only the MBTA but also how far those with authority will go to protect not only their power but also their livelihood. Keady’s decision to state that he would rape a younger female coworker is heavily rooted in misogyny. This incident meets at an intersection where Keady’s authority and perceived superiority to his younger female coworker gives him the ability to weaponize not only her body but her gender as well. What is a hyperbole to him is a true threat and weapon to not only his coworker, but to all women. This is not an isolated case in the slightest, as sexual misconduct in the workplace is an issue that gains more traction by the day, with many cases centering around one’s status in the workplace. Keady, although only an electrical inspector, holds authority through both his pay as well as how long he has worked for the MBTA and in this incident chose to weaponize his status to shoot down a mere suggestion. 

Any further updates in this case will be posted.

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