A former female police officer in Elyria is suing four of her former supervisors, including Chief Duane Whitely, alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation.
According to the lawsuit, Kristen Fortune was hired as a patrolman in January 2014, but was terminated just a few months later.
In a civil suit filed in the Lorain County Common Pleas Court, Fortune said she was "terminated based upon her gender” and was the target of unwanted sexual advances and pornographic text messages from several male colleagues.
Obtained civil lawsuit in Elyria: female police officer suing department for sexual harassment,gender discrimination pic.twitter.com/H1mV75IwAQ
— Derick Waller WEWS (@derickwallerTV) February 3, 2016
Fortune alleged a picture of her in a bikini began circulating among other officers immediately after her hiring. Fortune also alleged being forced to watch pornographic videos while alone with Field Training Officer Gary Longacre in his cruiser.
On one occasion, the lawsuit claimed, Fortune was forced to watch a video of a woman having her vagina sewn closed following child birth. The lawsuit claimed Longacre told Fortune she should watch it, "because you’re a woman you should know what happens when women have babies.”
The suit also claimed, during her training, Longacre would refer to Fortune as “Kevin” and in one exchange, told her to “wear something sexy” on a day when Fortune was permitted to wear street clothes to work.
Fortune accuses another patrolman of “frequently” propositioning Fortune for sex via text message.
The suit claims supervisors failed to discipline the accused officers when the behavior was reported to them.
The suit added that after reporting the behavior, Fortune was retaliated against, with "unreasonably low performance evaluations,” longer training, and extra duties that were designed for her "to fail.”
The suit stated just three out of 85 Elyria patrolmen are women, and just one actually works on road patrol.
Fortune seeks damages for six claims, including gender discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliatory discrimination, wrongful termination based on gender discrimination, aiding and abetting, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Fortune demands reinstatement of her job, the demotion or firing of all supervisors involved, as well as significant funding to retrain officers. She’s also seeking in excess of $25,000 per claim, as well as at least an additional $25,000 in punitive damages.
Her attorney told newsnet5.com she has since been hired as a police officer in Roaming Shores, Ohio.
Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely, as well as city attorney Scott Serazin, declined to comment. On Wednesday, a member of Serazin’s staff said he had not yet been served with the complaint.
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