Chicago, IL– A community services officer for the Des Plaines police department filed a federal lawsuit alleging she was subjected to sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation.
Officer Lori Matula filed her suit in September alleging that one of her fellow officers subjected her to sexual harassment and her superiors ignored her complaints and allowed a hostile work environment to persist, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Matula’s suit states that a former sergeant for the Des Plaines groped her on two different occasions. The first incident occurred in 2009, and again this past February.
In February, Matula injured her back as she was lifting her work bag out of the trunk of her car, which required her to go to the hospital. Before going to the hospital, the sergeant named in the suit helped Matula into the locker room. The lawsuit states that while the officer was helping Matula he grabbed her buttocks and breasts then pushed his fingers against her genitals through her pants.
A few weeks later, the lawsuit states Matula left work early one day because of back pain and the sergeant sent her a cellphone picture of male genitalia.
Matula reported the harassment in a workers’ compensation claim she filed in May.
The sergeant resigned from the department after the Matula’s complaint, but she alleges sexual harassment continued in the police department. The lawsuit states that officers in the Des Plaines police department would send “pornographic” emails from the computer she worked at.
Matula also alleges that she was subjected to retaliation because her husband, a Des Plaines officer, filed a suit against the city.
In one incident, former Chief James Prandini, who resigned in 2011, took her off a high-paying assignment because he saw her talking to her husband one day at work.
She also claims she was denied other high paying assignments, not allowed overtime and was not allowed to work “light duty,” the Tribune reported.
Her lawsuit claims the police department, “defendants created and perpetuated a hostile work environment, turned a blind eye to the sexual harassment and plaintiff’s complaints, and condoned and committed retaliation against.”
She is seeking compensation for retaliation based on association, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of the equal protection clause and assault and battery.
According the Des Plaines Patch this is the third federal lawsuit in which former Police Chief James Prandini has been named as a defendant.
Sexual harassment in law enforcement agencies is not uncommon and they can sometimes, but not always, be a hostile environment for women. Police departments who fail to take allegations of sexual harassment seriously put themselves at risk. They can be subjected to costly lawsuits and people could lose their jobs.
All employers, whether in the private or public sector, must protect their employees from sexual harassment. This type of behavior not only affects the target of the harassment, but the workplace overall. Sexual harassment attorneys hold employers accountable when they have failed their employees.