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Woman claims climate at WMATA discourages sex assault reporting

metro logoA union shop steward and veteran bus driver for The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority says the culture at WMATA discourages women from coming forward to report sexual harassment.

Linda Mercer, who has been a bus driver for more than 15 years, posted a video on her Facebook page making the claim.

"There's always been a good old boys club within WMATA," Mercer said.

“You can't tell, because when you tell, you're blackballed,” Mercer added.

In the video on her Facebook page she outlined the problem: “There have been plenty of women that have been sexually assaulted, touched in ways they don't want to be touched.”

Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer declined multiple Sentinel requests to comment on the claims Mercer made in the video.

Mercer said in the video numerous female WMATA employees had been sexually assaulted or harassed by co-workers and that there is a culture within the transit agency that discourages women from coming forward.

“It's time to stop it, it's time to reveal it,” Mercer said in the video.

Mercer said after speaking with women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted by co-workers or supervisors, she wrote a letter and sent an email to the head of Metro’s departments and Metro’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld detailing sexual assaults and harassments at Metro.

Mercer claimed the video was an attempt to come forward about numerous alleged transgressions against WMATA employees. In addition to claiming WMATA fosters a culture that does not punish men who sexually assault and harass women, Mercer claimed in the video WMATA mistreats workers by not allowing them to take enough sick days when ill or when a family member dies and making employees work overtime hours when they do not want to.

Mercer is currently a candidate for the first vice president with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, one of the labor unions that represent Metro employees.

David Stephen, a spokesperson for ATU Local 689, said he had no comment on Mercer's video.

Former WMATA employee Minkyung Kim alleged in a high-profile lawsuit in April 2015 that Omari June, then-director for Metro's service for people with disabilities MetroAccess, sexually harassed her multiple times, such as making sexually suggestive jokes and alluding to sex acts. According to the lawsuit, she alleged she was fired following an internal investigation of her allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

WMATA officials concluded "Ms. Kim had engaged in inappropriate workplace conduct of a sexual manner," according to the lawsuit which was settled and the details were not released.

Media outlets reported June was fired in August this year.

Retired bus driver Sheila Moton alleged she was sexually harassed by various supervisors and also alleged then-WMATA supervisor Ralph Whitaker raped her in 1999. She filed a complaint against WMATA and against Whitaker April 17, 2000 and filed an amended complaint on May 30, 2001. Attorney John S. Lopatto III said police did not charge Whitaker and the jury did not rule in her favor in the civil lawsuit against the man.

Last year, WMATA employee Arlancia Williams sued WMATA, alleging her supervisor sexually harassed her. She said her supervisor would ask her for a hug, and she would say no, mentioning she was married to Antawan Williams, another Metro employee.

In one instance in 2014 around March, when Arlancia Williams attended a funeral for another employee, her supervisor asked again, according to the lawsuit.

"'Hurry up and give me a hug before Antawan comes over here,'" he said, according to the lawsuit.

She said her supervisor repeatedly called her and that he emailed her during her vacation. This case is ongoing, according to the court docket.

@neal_earley @kathleenstubbs3

 

 

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