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Professional Firefighter Files Harassment Lawsuit Against Her Battalion

Oct 13, 2015

Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) October 13, 2015 – After 17 years of enduring sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace, a female firefighter has spoken out publicly after filing suit against her battalion.

Dena Lewis-Bystrzycki, a firefighter in Country Club Hills, Illinois, continues to be embroiled in a lawsuit she launched against her battalion in 2012. The suit alleged sexual harassment and gender discrimination, as well as other unwelcome behavior that was rampant in the workplace. Lewis-Bystrzycki was also recently suspended from duty, a move her legal counsel considers to be retaliation for filing the lawsuit and telling her story publicly.

Lewis-Bystrzycki was hired at the Country Club Hills fire station in 1998, and according to her lawsuit, she was subjected to at least 45 instances of discrimination and sexual harassment over the course of her employment until she filed suit in 2012. The statement of claim alleges that the first day she reported for duty, the chief whispered crude sexual remarks in her ear.

In 1999, a firefighter allegedly broke down the bathroom door while Lewis-Bystrzycki was in the shower. Members of the batallion would climb into her bunk and ask to cuddle. Additionally, members of the fire department allegedly watched pornography while on duty at the firehouse. Firefighters admitted to watching it, and their deputy admitted to not reporting the behavior.

Lewis-Bystrzycki took her promotion exam in 2011, which allegedly included 18 questions written by the father of a fellow firefighter who also took the exam. He scored highest on the test and subsequently received the promotion to lieutenant. After this event, Lewis-Bystrzycki said she found a ceramic doll on her locker that had its hands over its mouth, which she interpreted as a threat to remain silent.

“Based on the evidence, it seems that the plaintiff has a good case,” said Timothy Coffey, a noted Chicago employment attorney, not involved in this case. “However, that remains to be determined by a court. In any situation such as this one, if an individual is struggling with questionable behavior in the workplace, it is best to seek employment counsel to determine what your legal rights are, how such a matter may proceed and what to possibly expect as an outcome.”

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