-- The 2015 holiday party at a volunteer ambulance service in suburban New York featured “a sexually derogatory” gingerbread house and simulated orgy by gummy bears, according to a federal lawsuit.
The words “sexual harassment in progress” were on the roof of the edible house, the suit alleges.
Two EMTs, Raymis Ruiz, 21, and John Messing, 41, called the gingerbread house and its sugary accoutrements “gross and offensive” and accused Bay Shore-Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance Inc. (BSBRA) of harassment, bullying and discrimination, according to the lawsuit.
Some of Ruiz’s colleagues spread false rumors in late 2016 about her “sleeping with” other members at the Long Island facility but her complaints to superiors were ignored, she also alleged in the suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The suit alleges that Ruiz, who photographed the display, “did not complain out of fear of retaliation” and that the only reason the gingerbread house was removed was “because nonmember civilians, who were present in the BSBRA facility and saw the horrific display, expressed concerns about its presence.”
The suit states that a colleague warned Ruiz not to cause trouble or escalate her harassment complaints: “Kim watch yourself. I know you’re smarter than this.”
It quoted one of her supervisors as saying “you just have to let it roll off your shoulder. You have to learn to develop thicker skin.”
Messing said he was suspended and eventually fired for standing up for Ruiz, according to the lawsuit.
“Messing was continually told that he should have minded his own business and that the situation was not his concern,” the suit says.
Messing and Ruiz have “suffered loss of income, special damages, loss of benefits, inconvenience and other compensation,” the suit states, and are seeking a jury trial in pursuit of “compensatory damages for mental, emotional and physical injury,” among other things.
Bay Shore-Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance told ABC New its attorneys were drafting a response to the lawsuit.