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Suburban Chicago fire department rocked by sexual harassment suit

A short drive north of Chicago brings you to Lincolnwood. The Cook County town is small enough to outsource its fire department with an area firm that provides fire and medical services.

The suburb’s contracted fire department was recently rocked by news that three senior members have been named in a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by a former firefighter who claims that he was fired after he reported workplace drug abuse and sexual harassment of the department’s only woman.

The three men all work for the Schiller Park-based firm Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI) that contracts with Lincolnwood. The trio includes the department’s chief, deputy chief and battalion chief, according to court filings.

The former firefighter who filed suit in federal court began working for PSI eight years ago. According to a news story about the suit, the former firefighter alleges that the deputy chief regularly makes vulgar and misogynistic comments about the female firefighter and that the battalion chief makes frequent comments about the woman’s breasts.

The department’s chief apparently said to her during her job interview that he feared she would have sex with a co-worker, instructing her not to seduce any other employees.

After the former firefighter tried to get co-workers and supervisors to stop making unacceptable sexist comments in the workplace, he says he was subjected to retaliation and harassment. He said he was sent pornographic images in text messages from co-workers and was the subject of gossip and “jokes,” including comments that he was the “(female firefighter) with a penis).”

He says that after he complained about the treatment, matters got even worse, culminating in his firing a little more than two years ago.

He was fired for sending requested images of a substance-abusing colleague and drugs to a supervisor.

Those who endure workplace harassment and retaliation can stop the mistreatment with the help of an employment law attorney.

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