An Illinois sexual harassment case originally filed in state court, is now headed to federal court along with some nasty allegations.
Lieutenant Terri Simone Lorenz of the Orland Fire Protection District claims that her sexual harassment problems began shortly after Fire Chief Bryant Krizik and Deputy Chief Joe Madden were placed on administrative leave in May, 2011. She alleges that the newly appointed acting fire chief, Raymond Kay, and Battalion Chief Nicholas Cinquepalmi embarked on a malicious campaign to drive her from the department.
Quoting from the complaint:
Defendants subjected Simone Lorenz to a long standing pattern of discrimination based on her sex (female), retaliation because she complained, and created and perpetuated a hostile work environment, including but not limited to the following:
a.Maintaining pornographic, sexually graphic, and other inappropriate material in the women’s bathroom and in other places in the fire house;
b.Making derogatory comments about women, including about Simone Lorenz, other women firefighters, and other women generally;
c.Singling Simone Lorenz out on drills;
d.Shunning and ostracizing Simone Lorenz and encouraging other firefighters to do the same, which for a firefighter can be a safety issue on fire calls, which are inherently dangerous;
e.Spreading malicious and sexually based rumors about Simone Lorenz;
f.Subjecting Simone Lorenz to unwarranted scrutiny, criticism, and false allegations;
g.Subjecting Simone Lorenz to a notice of interrogation based on false and malicious accusations and without cause, when other employees were not subject to interrogation for similar or more egregious allegations against them;
h.Subjecting Simone Lorenz to unwarranted disciplinary action, and discipline for which male employees were not subjected to for far more egregious allegations made against the male employees; and
i.Denying Simone Lorenz assignments and special projects that she had previously done.
The six-count, 46 page complaint includes some 199 paragraphs, alleging gender discrimination under state and federal law, hostile work environment, retaliation under the Illinois Human Rights Act, discrimination on the basis of union affiliation, and Constitutional violations (42 USC 1983) of the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment.
Included in the specifics of the claims:
- Chief Kay initiated an unwarranted investigation into whether Simone Lorenz cheated on her promotional exam even though she was promoted in 2009, two years before he became the acting chief. The investigation did not result in charges and Simone Lorenz insists the allegations were fabricated.
- Simone Lorenz received a one day suspension for “giving the finger” to another lieutenant while both were off duty at a union function. The charge was later reversed by an arbitrator who heard testimony that included:
- [Chief Kay] admitted that he had never recommended or issued discipline for that kind of conduct – except for against Simone Lorenz.
- Defendant [BC] Cinquepalmi gave “the finger” to Simone Lorenz’s entire crew during roll call, and was never disciplined
- Defendant [BC] Cinquepalmi instructed [the other lieutenant] to document the incident, so that Defendants could then charge Simone Lorenz with misconduct and discipline, demote her, or fire her from the District
- Management admitted that giving “the finger” to one another commonly occurs “on duty” in the firehouse
- Simone Lorenz was suspended for 1 day for sending an email to “all users” (subsequently reversed by an arbitrator after it was revealed there was no rule that prohibited it and that others who did the same thing were not disciplined).
- Repeated requests for help from human resources went largely ignored.
The case was originally filed in Cook County Circuit Court, and was removed to federal court at the request of the Fire Protection District.
Here is a copy of the complaint. Complaint
While there are a number of troubling aspects to the allegations in the compliant, there is one issue that stands out to me that is worth discussing from a leadership perspective: Lt. Simone Lorenz made repeated allegations that male subordinates were rude and disrespectful towards her, and that Chief Kay and Cinquepalmi did nothing to address the insubordination when told.
Who bears the responsibility for this, Lt. Simone Lorenz or the chiefs? Is it enough for a lieutenant in this situation to claim that “they” know about it?