Truck Driver Sues, Claiming Continued Discrimination

Elkridge Firm Found Guilty 2 Years Ago

February 23, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff writer

A Glen Burnie woman has filed a $13 million federal sex discrimination suit against a trash-hauling firm, claiming on-the-job harassment continued when she returned to work after settling a previous complaint.

Dawn Munday, a truck driver at Waste Management of Maryland's Elkridge station, claims that the company violated the terms of a confidential settlement they reached last April, after the Howard CountyHuman Rights Commission found "reasonable cause" to believe she was a victim of discrimination.

The settlement came two years after Munday, the only female truckdriver at the Elkridge yard, complained to the commission that she'dbeen subjected to harassing remarks and rumors about her sexual conduct and had been forced to pick up truck keys and work assignments inthe men's locker room-bathroom.

In the complaint filed Tuesday inU.S. District Court in Baltimore, Munday claims that when she returned to work in July, she was paid less than the other drivers and her benefits were not restored. She also claims that her bosses demanded to know if she was planning to sue the company for sexual harassment,and instructed her co-workers not to talk to her and to report what she said to the company.

The suit, naming Waste Management of North America Inc. and Waste Management of Maryland as defendants, characterizes the company's actions as "retaliatory," and claims Munday, 33, suffered physical illness as a result of job stress. The suit, claiming Civil Rights Act violations, seeks $3 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

Company general managerRobert Bohager, who works at the Elkridge office, said this week he knew nothing about the suit and referred questions to corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

Corporate headquarters referred questions to Ken Murdock, human resource manager for the company's northeastern region.

"Since we haven't seen the suit, it's tough to respond," said Murdock. "The position of the company has been that we've been responsive to Dawn's concern. We do whatever we can to provide our employees free of employment discrimination."

Munday said Tuesday that she's been out on sick leave since Aug. 7 because of back spasms. She said her doctor diagnosed the spasms as related to job stress. She hopes to return to work in two weeks "if all goes well."

Munday said that when she received her first paycheck after returning to work in July, she noticed that her base rate of pay was $8.15 an hour,while the other drivers were getting $8.90. The base pay is a starting rate and does not include productivity bonuses that drivers routinely earn, Munday said.

She said she was making nearly $40,000 a year before she filed her initial complaint in 1989. She also said thather health insurance benefits had not been restored, as called for in the April 1991 agreement.

Murdock said there was an error in Munday's wage computation, but that was already fixed. He also said her medical benefits had been restored, retroactive to the date of the agreement.

Munday said the company did live up to its promise to provide a women's bathroom by moving a mobile trailer to the truck yard.However, they never supplied toilet paper or soap, she said.

"I thought we had come to an agreement as adults, and it was over with," said Munday. "From the moment I returned to work, I was discriminatedagainst. I was harassed."

Munday said that operations manager Chad Johnson, who had been with Waste Management for four years, was dismissed after he tried to intervene on her behalf.

Johnson, of Silver Spring, said last week that he was transferred from Temple Hills to the Elkridge office a week after Munday returned to work and had been put in charge of retraining her and of "keeping the lines of communication" open between her and the company. Although he was not privyto the terms of the April settlement, he soon sensed that something was wrong, he said.

When her pay rate came up short, Johnson said,"That sent up a red flag to me . . . that somebody wasn't holding uptheir end of the deal." He was also concerned about her benefits.

Johnson said he'd always enjoyed working for Waste Management, but he feared that if the company was found breaking the agreement, he would be held responsible.

He called the regional manager in Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County, to ask that someone, preferably a company lawyer, check on compliance with the settlement. A week later, Bohager told him he would be dismissed if he did not resign.

Murdock confirmed that Johnson was not working for the company anymore. Although he didn't want to comment on why Johnson was dismissed, Murdocksaid it was unrelated to Munday's case.

"If I'd been named in a discrimination suit and been given a second chance, I'd be on top of things," said Johnson. "I'd make sure every 't' was crossed and every 'i' was dotted."

(Staff writer Lan Nguyen contributed to this story.)

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