NEW FRANKLIN, Ohio — A second woman who was allegedly sexually harassed by her fellow officers at the New Franklin Police Department has filed a lawsuit in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas against the city of New Franklin.
The female officer worked for the department from January 2016 to May 30, 2018. During her time with the department, she was continuously verbally and physically harassed by other officers, including her supervisor, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that the officer’s supervisors "knew or should have known of and failed to take immediate and appropriate action," regarding the matter.
The suit states that the officer and another female officer were retaliated against “for their opposing and complaining about the sexual harassment.”
According to the lawsuit, instances of harassment include:
- A lieutenant allegedly made lewd comments about her physical appearance.
- The officer’s supervisors made comments in front of her about having sex with female prisoners, sometimes giving them a number from 1 to 10 based on attractiveness, and discussed who they would choose if they had to pick between two specific prisoners to have intercourse with.
- The officer had her hair pulled multiple times by a male officer in front of the police chief, despite asking the person to stop.
- Was asked if she was “willing to do anything” to be transferred off of the night shift.
- Was called numerous derogatory names, including "slut," "lesbian," "dyke," "whore," "stripper," "paste eater," and "window licker." Was told that she "smelled like a stripper," and had gagging noises made to her.
- Was hit and pushed by a male employee and asked “what are you going to do about it,” when she told him to stop.
- Was asked if she and another female officer should “make a sexy calendar in their police uniforms ‘like the fireman calendars.’”
- Wasn’t allowed to use the restroom until after male officers left the station. Other times, she was forced to use a porta-potty on the road while her male coworkers could freely use the bathroom.
The lawsuit also states that when male officers were sent on dangerous calls, they automatically received backup, but she was forced to go alone. On one such occasion, the officer was injured, and “often when she asked for backup no one arrived despite officers sitting at a table back at the station.”
In early 2018, a former male officer filed a complaint against the city, according to the lawsuit. In the complaint, the male officer said a female officer had been harassed by a supervisor. According to the lawsuit, another officer “coached her what to say and told her to lie and say nothing happened or that she took it as a joke.” When the female officer said she wouldn’t lie, the officer who coached her said, “Remember, this will follow you wherever you go, and you are trying to find a full-time job and they will ask New Franklin for a reference. I don’t want this to hurt you in the long run.” Another detective in the department instructed her to “just say nothing happened.”
On May 14, 2018, a male officer accessed the plaintiff’s personal email, which was attached through her work email with the same password and “searched through numerous private emails to find private photos of plaintiff in lingerie, including for fitness progress, and took a picture on his personal phone of one of Plaintiff’s private lingerie photographs," the lawsuit states.
The female officer told her supervisor and police chief about the incident, the lawsuit states. On May 24, 2018, the male officer who accessed her email was promoted. On May 30, the city told the female officer that she was the one who violated policy due to not logging out of her work email. When she asked if the male officer who went through her email would be disciplined, the police chief responded by saying, “For what,” according to the lawsuit.
Later, the female officer contacted the former mayor and said she had been sexually harassed. According to the lawsuit, the former mayor allegedly told her he didn’t want to hear about it and there were “proper channels” to follow and to “get out of his office.”
Furthermore, the lawsuit states that since she went to the former mayor and didn’t follow her chain of command, she was placed on an unpaid suspension as retaliation.
On May 30, 2018, the officer “was compelled to resign and was constructively discharged,” according to the lawsuit. Since then, the officer has been told that the city has made “false, derogatory comments about her to others, including to her prospective employers, including that she took nude pictures of herself, including in her cruiser, and tried to pull someone over in her personal car with her police badge, all in retaliation for her complaining about sexual harassment."
The lawsuit seeks compensation of $25,000 or more for back pay, economic damages, restitution, loss of enjoyment of life and self-esteem and reputation damages. It also seeks compensation for back pay and lost benefits. The lawsuit seeks to be proven at trial.
City responds to first lawsuit
Earlier this week, another female officer sued New Franklin for similar allegations.
Her lawsuit states that she was a part-time officer who resigned in 2017 because she was harassed on a daily basis by other officers and supervisors in the department.
She resigned in "fear of her career being ruined and further retaliation if she mentioned the harassment again," that lawsuit states.
Her lawsuit makes many of the same claims; that officers in the department called her derogatory names and made lewd comments. It also states that at one point, she was physically assaulted by a supervisor who allegedly grabbed her by the crotch.
The city told news 5 that when allegations arose regarding the first lawsuit; it hired a former University of Akron law professor to conduct an independent review of the department.
The review found, "the city of New Franklin Police Department is, on most bases, a well-run and professional organization. As a whole, police officers act professionally in most circumstances and provide citizens with an admirable level of services performed respectfully. There are many examples of police officers within the department going above and beyond the call of duty to aid the city's citizens. Most police officers have served for many years and with high honor. But as noted above, there are areas of concern which, from this investigator's viewpoint, may be readily addressed and alleviated."
The city said it will fight the allegations.
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