Sexual harassment remains one of the most troubling and disturbing issues that women will ever encounter in the workplace. The issue is especially prevalent in large urban centers like Chicago, where an estimated 62% of female paramedics say they have been sexually harassed while on the job. And now, as the result of a lengthy lawsuit, Chicago may finally be paying for its inability to rein in that behavior.
Ben Kesslen and Diana Dasrath of NBC News have reported that, following a three-year lawsuit, the city of Chicago has agreed to pay a $1.8 million settlement to five of the city’s female paramedics who say they were sexually harassed while on the job.
“The five paramedics, who have not been named publicly, filed the suit in 2018 alleging that the fire department reinforced a ‘code of silence’ that ‘ignored sexual-harassment complaints and failed to conduct meaningful investigations of alleged sex discrimination,’ according to the lawyers,” Kesslen and Dasrath reported.
Some of the allegations cited in the lawsuit, according to Kesslen and Dasrath, include “a paramedic who reported her ex-boyfriend, also an employee of the fire department, for stalking but was retaliated against; another woman said a supervisor pressured her for sex, asking her for a ‘no strings attached relationship,’ and another alleged that an ambulance commander grabbed her and forced her to grab his genitals.”
A byproduct of the #MeToo movement, the suit was funded in part by the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports individuals who have experienced sexual harassment or retaliation at work to come forward to seek justice.
In a statement, Sharyn Tejani, director of the nonprofit, said, “we are very proud to have been able to help in this case. These paramedics want to do their job and help the community; enduring sex harassment should not be the cost of doing their jobs.”
Tom Cramer, one of the lead lawyers in the case, added that “based upon the inspector general’s report, which confirmed widespread discrimination and harassment, and the implementation of a new female-led administration, we are optimistic that change will come from the top.”
While the Chicago Fire Department has yet to issue an official statement, city officials stood in defense of the female paramedics when the lawsuit was initially filed, saying that the city “does not tolerate harassment of any kind.”