An EMT with the Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Company has filed suit in federal court in Maryland alleging she has been sexually harassed and retaliated against. Susan Williams claims that a deputy chief harassed her over an extended period of time, and her attempts to make the harassment stop were not only ignored but prompted acts of retaliation by the department.
According to the complaint:
- Deputy Chief John Thompson was Ms. Williams' supervisor and as such supervised her and gave her work related orders, which she was required to obey.
- From late 2007 /early 2008 through his resignation, Deputy Chief Thompson would regularly make sexually suggestive comments to her.
- During monthly SSFD meetings, and in the presence of other members, Deputy Chief Thompson would intimately sit next to Ms. Williams and position himself so he could suggestively rub his leg against her body.
- In early February 2008, at a SSFD fundraising event, Deputy Chief Thompson sought out Ms. Williams, began to grope her and fondled her rear end.
- In March 2008, when Ms. Williams picked up an accident report from Station 16, Deputy Chief Thompson informed her that he dressed up just for her and then told her that he could help her change her charge status and recommended the two of the take the ambulance out on a drive.
- On or June 12, 2008, during a SSFD Board Meeting where other members were present, including Fire Chief Roger McGary, Deputy Chief Daniel Blankfeld and Lieutenant Christopher Saupto, Deputy Chief Thompson sat on Ms. Williams lap, bounced on her lap and proceeded to grind his rear end on her lap.
- While he was grinding against Ms. Williams, Deputy Chief Thompson proceeded to tell the members in the room that "his seat" was on top of Ms. Williams' lap.
Williams complained to the internal affairs officer of the Montgomery County Fire Department. Following an investigation it was determined that Chief Thompson had sexually harassed Williams.
- Upon information and belief, the Internal Affairs Investigator informed Fire Chief McGary of his findings and advised Fire Chief McGary to remove Deputy Chief Thompson.
- Fire Chief McGary was offended that a Montgomery County representative was telling him what he should do and did not remove Deputy Chief Thompson or take any action against Deputy Chief Thompson to address or remedy him sexually harassing Ms. Williams.
- Shortly after complaining, Fire Chief McGary verbally criticized Ms. Williams and, in reference to her complaints, told her that she "should have kept this in-house."
- The investigation and its findings did not deter Deputy Chief Thompson from continuing to harass Ms. Williams. The harassment included further sexual comments and, with his vehicle, blocking her in her parking spot.
- On or around early January 2010, during a SSFD meeting where approximately 40 members were present, Deputy Chief Thompson stood up, pointed his finger at Ms. Williams and shouted in front of the entire assembly "Susan, isn't it true you have a lawsuit against Silver Spring?"
- Even after he was told to sit down by his supervisors, Deputy Chief Thompson insisted that he "was speaking to Susan" and continued to belittle Ms. Williams and shout "Susan, don't you have a lawsuit against the Department?"
Williams claims in addition to the harassment and retaliation, she was denied training opportunities and assignments, and threatened with discipline. She filed a timely complaint with the EEOC who concluded that she was the victim of sexual harassment. When conciliation efforts between Williams and the department failed, she filed suit in US District Court.
The suit was filed yesterday, with four counts:
- Count 1 – quid pro quo sexual harassment
- Count 2 – retaliation
- Count 3 – hostile work environment sexual harassment
- Count 4 – sex discrimination
The complaint seeks unnamed compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.
Here is a copy of the complaint: Williams v Silver Spring