'Garbage lady' to testify about bias

June 17, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

PASADENA -- Having claimed her place among American feminist heroes for standing up to on-the-job sex discrimination, a local garbage truck driver is taking her case to Congress.

Dawn Munday, named in the spring as a 1991 Feminist of the Year by the Feminist Majority Foundation, is scheduled to testify next week before a U.S. House subcommittee on a bill to help prevent discrimination and harassment against women working in male-dominated fields.

The Foundation award places Ms. Munday in the company of 1991 Feminist of the Year winners Anita Hill, former National Organization for Women President Molly Yard, and Callie Khouri, who wrote the screenplay for "Thelma and Louise."

It's incredible, Ms. Munday said yesterday, "me, the garbage lady."

Ms. Munday, who has been driving trucks for 15 of her 33 years, is scheduled to take her place at the witness table June 25 alongside three other women -- a boiler mechanic, a neurologist and a mathematician -- to tell about their experiences with sex discrimination on the job.

They were asked to testify in support of a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Constance Morella, R-8th, that would give $1 million to the Department of Labor to help employers and unions make offices, factories, truck yards and laboratories more friendly to women. Theagency could use the money to conduct seminars and support groups, and to act as liaison between women and their employers or unions.

The measure is designed to help avert the sort of harassment suffered by Ms. Munday, who has worked since 1986 as a garbage truck driver at Waste Management of Maryland's Elkridge station, making between $45,000 and $50,000 a year. Out of work since April with a knee injury, Ms. Munday has filed a $13 million sex-discrimination suit against Waste Management of North America Inc. and Waste Management of Maryland.

The case filed in U.S. District Court in February claims that the company continued to discriminate against Ms. Munday when she returned to work after it had settled a previous discrimination complaint before the Howard County Human Rights Commission.

"I'll prove I'm right, I've got the laws," said Ms. Munday, a graduate of Northeast Senior High School who learned to drive a truck at 17 and started her own trucking company at 20. "I was brought up a very fair person. I assumed people were fair. Now I don't do that."

Last year, the commission found "reasonable cause" to believe Ms. Munday -- the only woman truck driver at the Elkridge station -- was a victim of discrimination. Among her other complaints, Ms. Munday said that she'd been subjected to harassing remarks and rumors about her sexual conduct, and was forced to pick up truck keys and work assignments in the men's locker room/bathroom.

Waste Management agreed to pay Ms. Munday more than $45,000 and to set up a separate bathroom for her. However, when she returned to work last July she found she was paid less than the other drivers and that her benefits were not restored, as the settlement required. The company did move a mobile trailer to the yard containing a bathroom, but did not supply it with soap or toilet paper.

In a hearing last week, a federal judge denied all the corporation's motions to dismiss Ms. Munday's complaints and set a trial for 10 months from now.

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