Five female paramedics with the Chicago Fire Department filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging they were sexually harassed by some of their superiors.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago contends there is a "code of silence" in the fire department that encourages the illegal behavior by failing to "discipline, supervise and control" its officers.
"Municipal policy-makers are aware of — and condone and facilitate (the misconduct) — by their inaction, a code of silence in the CFD by which employees fail to report misconduct committed by other male officers," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also states a pattern of indifference to the concerns of female employees is underscored by the fire department's failure to maintain adequate separate bathrooms and separate sleeping quarters in firehouses.
In the 57-page lawsuit, one plaintiff alleged a field chief complained about his sex life with his wife, saying she was a grandmother who "acted like it." The plaintiff said the chief solicited the woman for a "no-strings" sexual relationship" and repeatedly texted her sexually inappropriate messages.
Another claimed she was stalked by a fellow firefighter.
Three of the women made allegations against the same ambulance commander. One said he tried to kiss her and force her to inappropriately touch him. The two others said he made repeated sexually explicit comments, including asking, "What kind of panties do you wear at work?"
Their attorney, Lynn Palac, says her clients choose to remain anonymous while naming their male harassers in the lawsuit. She says the women have already been put through the wringer and endured a pattern of abuse that has threatened their physical and mental well-being.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction aimed at remedying the hostile work environment.
In response to the lawsuit, Chicago Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey would only say the city "does not tolerate harassment of any kind."