Chicago Fights Paramedics’ Sexual Harassment Claims

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By John McCoy

Five female paramedics are suing Chicago, charging that it ignored sexual harassment in the city’s Fire Department.

The women, all identified in the complaint as Jane Doe, allege they were forced to endure a hostile environment plagued by lascivious language and unwanted sexual contact.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has shone a new light on the pervasiveness of harassment in the workplace and forced many employers to fix hostile environments or to get policies in place to prevent it.

“This has been a pattern of practice of this department” one attorney for the paramedics told Bloomberg Law. “The women have been dealing with this for a long time. They just want relief from the situation,” one of the attorneys for the women, Lynn Palac, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told Bloomberg Law.

The complaint alleges violations of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts, which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of gender and sex, and of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

The 57-page document lists the individual allegations from each of the women, including detailed descriptions of their experiences. All of the women allege sexual harassment and gender discrimination violations under federal law, with four alleging retaliation as well.

The lawsuit names the city as the only defendant. “The department and the city EEO knew about the claims and did nothing,” Palac said.

The lawsuit comes less than a month after a male paramedic was placed on paid administrative leave after allegedly engaging in public self-gratification in and around his assigned firehouse.

Want to Keep Their Jobs

In addition to equitable and monetary relief, the lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, which requests that the city be barred from “engaging in any and all employment practices which discriminate or appear to discriminate” against the women because of their sex or retaliate against them from bringing the lawsuit.

“The women want to keep their jobs,” Palac said.

Representatives from Chicago didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Amy Cramer and Thomas Cramer, also of Cramer Law, and Hannah Valdez Garst of the Law Offices of Hannah Garst also represent the paramedics. The City of Chicago Department of Law represents Chicago.

The case is Jane Doe 1-5 v. Chicago, N.D. Ill., Case No. 18-cv-3054, complaint 5/1/18.

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