Chicago Paramedics Sue City for Condoning Rampant Sexual Harassment

Five paramedics with the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) are suing the city seeking redress from its “illegal conduct, including the implementation of proper sexual harassment training and the enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy against workplace violence and sexual harassment so they may continue their careers at CFD and prevent other females from experiencing this trauma.”

Jane Doe 1 (JD1) is a paramedic-in-charge (PIC) who has worked for the CFD since December 2014, according to the complaint. Beginning in October 2017 she was subjected to sexual harassment by her superior, Field Chief Richard Raney.

Raney complained to JD1 that his wife would not have sex with him and asked her to enter into a “no strings relationship” with him and that he had never “found anyone so attractive on the job.” JD1 told a coworker as soon as possible and reported Raney’s conduct to a supervisor. 

According to the complaint, Raney’s conduct continued. He sent several sexually inappropriate text messages to her and indicated that he was following her ambulance assignments through an online scheduling system.

One night JD1 lay down to rest in a private room designated for the PIC. Raney used a universal key to enter the firehouse and walk into JD 1’s private room, kept the lights off, and approached her.  JD1 claims she feared a sexual assault and took a defensive stance. Raney left.

According to the complaint, after JD 1 reported the incident and it went up the chain of command, Raney began retaliating against her by berating over the radio her in front of coworkers and yelling at her while she was at the scene of an accident. JD1 sought and obtained a shift change because of the retaliation she faced, according to the complaint.

Jane Doe 2 (JD2) has worked for the CFD since August 2002. In late 2013 she dated firefighter George Olifer for approximately three months. After she ended the relationship, Olifer posted a picture of JD2 in her underwear, accompanied by a sexual comment about her, for her family and coworkers to see. She blocked him from her social media and telephone. He sent her a “nasty, degrading email,” the complaint states.

When JD2 complained to Internal Affairs Division (IAD) she was told that there was nothing they could do because the events occurred outside of work and she was advised to seek an order of protection.

After she did so, she was contacted by a CFD social worker who was working with Olifer, said he was in a “better place” and asked her to drop the order of protection because it could “ruin his career,” the complaint states. The harassment, however, continued.

In November 2014 JD2 was transferred to another district and had no contact with Olifer for two years. In November 2016 she received a new assignment and, upon arrival, was met by Olifer. A coworker later told her that Olifer had deliberately set out to be assigned the same firehouse as JD2. 

Instead of disciplining Olifer for his stalking-like behavior, JD2 was charged  with making fraudulent allegations against him. When she was interviewed by IAD investigators she was told “people work with their exes all the time.” She claims no witnesses were called to back up her story. A month later the charges against her were dropped with no explanation, the lawsuit states.

Jane Doe 3 (JD3) is a PIC who began working with the CFD in August 2014. For several months she claims she was subjected to sexual harassment by Commander George Bedon, her superior. The harassment included unwanted hugs and kisses by Bedon as well as him placing her hand on his penis, according to the compalint.

JD3 was afraid to report the events because Bedon was her boss, she was relatively new to the job, and she knew she would be mocked, humiliated and retaliated against. She did, however, make a report in November 2017.  

After being advised to send her complaint to the city’s equal employment Opportunity (EEO) department, she was interviewed by two EEO investigators. JD3 was reluctant to identify a friend of hers with whom she had discussed the harassment and was told that if she did not do so she would be seen as not “cooperating with the investigation” and would face disciplinary action. The investigation was not completed.

Jane Doe 4 (JD4) was also a victim of Bedon, according to the complaint. She has worked for the CFD since May 2015 and been subjected to harassment by Bedon since August 2017.

JD4 claims Bedon made derogatory and inappropriate comments to and about her, and hugged and kissed her against her wishes. JD4 also claims she made a report to and was interviewed by the EEO department. Instead of investigating the claims of sexual harassment, two disciplinary notices were issued against JD4. She refuted the allegations that formed the basis of the notices.

JD4 claims that IAD conducted a sham investigation into the allegations and summoned her to a hearing without enough time to be accompanied by counsel. She believes that the process was used to retaliate against her and “attempt to discredit her credibility and complaints about Bedon.”

Jane Doe 5’s (JD5) allegations also involves Bedon. JD5 was a trainee in 2005 when she was partnered with Bedon who was her supervisor. He made inappropriate comments and touched her breast without her consent while she was driving an ambulance.

The harassment continued, but as a probationary employee JD5 was reluctant to report it. According tot the complaint, after she rebuffed Bedon’s advances, “he would single her out by being hyper-critical of her work.” A few years later she sought a transfer to avoid him.

In November 2016 after a hurricane, JD5 was assigned as Bedon’s partner for the day. Her fears were realized when he hugged and kissed her without her consent. JD5 claims that “CFD had received prior complaints about Bedon’s sexually harassing behavior, yet failed to protect its female employees from it,” and, in fact “promoted [him] in spite of its knowledge of [it],” the complaint states.

The case was brought by Amy Cramer of Chicago who filed the complaint in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

Image Source: Arvell Dorsey Jr. (Flickr)