5 female paramedics sue Chicago Fire Dept. over sexual harassment allegations

Four allege sexual harassment by bosses and one said a colleague harassed her.

May 2, 2018, 5:30 PM

Five female paramedics with the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday claiming that they were sexually harassed by members of the Fire Department, including superiors.

The 57-page suit, filed by five women who have chosen to remain anonymous, comes just three months after the women filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which issued Right to Sue letters to each plaintiff.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago. Four of the plaintiffs allege sexual harassment by superiors and one claims she received similar treatment from a colleague.

Three of the complaints were against the same Ambulance Commander, who allegedly forcibly kissed, groped and made lewd comments to each of the women.

One woman claimed that the commander “kissed and licked her face” after she verbally and physically resisted his advances. Another claims that he made explicit comments on her physical appearance, repeatedly asking questions such as “what kind of panties do you wear at work?”

Several plaintiffs said they tried to avoid one-on-one situations with their harassers, fearing they would be sexually assaulted.

According to the lawsuit, “women who complain of sexual harassment get mocked, humiliated, retaliated against, and their careers suffer as a result,” deterring one of the women from reporting harassment on one occasion.

Among the many allegations that are “part of a pattern and practice of sex discrimination,” the case claims that the City of Chicago fails to maintain safety for female employees, fails to provide sufficient sexual harassment training for employees and ignores reports of sexual harassment.

The suit also claims that there is a “code of silence” in the CFD surrounding the issue of sexual harassment that is condoned and facilitated by municipal policymakers’ failure to act.

Lynn Palac, an attorney representing the women, told ABC News that the CFD was aware of harassment allegations at the time of the EEOC filing in January, but no disciplinary actions against the accused had been taken at that point.

According to a fire department official, “investigations were already in progress” when the lawsuit was filed. The official also told ABC News that the accused officers are currently working, but would not elaborate on the capacity in which they are functioning within the CFD.

Bill McCaffrey, spokesperson for the Chicago Law Department told ABC News in a statement that “the City of Chicago does not tolerate harassment of any kind,” but would not comment further on the case.

Palac says that the women, “above all want to keep their jobs and work in a safe environment.”