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Kentucky Paramedic Loses Sexual Harassment Case

Last week a Federal jury ruled against a Kentucky paramedic in a sexual harassment case against her former employer. Kristina Frederick was terminated by the Oldham County Ambulance Taxing District in 2008 shortly after the resignation of her former boss, Lance Vincent, who was the alleged harasser. Vincent was the EMS Director for Oldham County.

Frederick’s suit alleged that she had to sleep with Vincent in order to be hired. In an earlier ruling the court stated “This case presents some difficult questions arising from a bizarre and pervasive sexual atmosphere in the OCEMS workplace.” The sordid details of what took place in Oldham County were described by the court:

Sexual conduct was discussed openly. Several employees carried on sexual relationships with each other, including supervisors with their subordinates. Vincent, for example, admits having sex with two subordinates — Frederick and Assistant Director Terry Stock — at different times. He told them and others about a previous relationship he had with a subordinate at a different job. Vincent kept pornography on his work computer, and showed sexually explicit material to other employees, including nude or partially nude pictures of his wife, who he involved in some of his affairs. … He touched female employees in sexual ways while they were on duty, including by pulling them into his lap and swatting them on their bottoms. … He made comments about their breasts and asked them about their sexual preferences and experiences. (Id.) He discussed his outside-of-work sexual activities with subordinates and employees, including his involvement in a swinger’s club where couples went to have sex with other couples. … He used his work computer to visit the web sites of private sex clubs.

The court’s decision issued September 2, 2010 explains more of the factual basis for the case.

According to the EMS District’s attorney, Ed Stopher, “The truth is, she had sex with him because she wanted to.” Apparently the jury agreed with Stopher’s contention last week in ruling in favor of the district.

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  • NancyJ.

    This case seems like an open and shut one. But it poses this situation/question, to me at least.

    I work full time and go to school 2 nights a week. I have a PT job on the weekends.
    All of these places where I work are also my social life. That and sadly, Face Book. When on the job is the only place you have to meet anyone to ligitimatly date, or even have dinner with, how do you safely have a social encounter with a co-worker? There’s a male nurse at my hospital who came to me and said, “This is extremly inappropriate, I know that. But I would love to have a drink with you sometime.” I felt the same way. We exchanged numbers. That was back in Oct. of 2010. Niether of us has acted on this because of our fears of situations that will cost us our jobs.

  • http://firelawblog.com Curt Varone

    NancyJ

    Its a problem and there are no simple solutions. Its easy for a lawyer or HR person to say don’t have workplace relationships. Relationships between co-workers are less of a concern than relationships between supervisors and subordinates – but even then things can easily get out of control, putting jobs in jeopardy.

  • David D

    I have a question, did the complainant in this case ever say “no” or elude to the fact that the actions were offensive to her. I thought that this was the key point to sexual harrassment. If she went along with it willingly as a consenting adult then I concur with the court, but if she said that she found offense to what was going on then I feel the court is FUBAR’d.

  • http://firelawblog.com Curt Varone

    David

    Yes – according to the September 2, 2010 court decision she did object to what was going on at various points. However, according to the court, there was also evidence that tended to refute that. This is a quote from the decision:

    “The parties appear to dispute whether the sex was voluntary, but they agree that Frederick and Vincent told each other that they loved each other. They talked on the phone and sent each other text messages several times a day. Vincent’s wife participated in the second sexual encounter between Frederick and Vincent.”

    Evidently the jury believed it was consensual, or at least believed that Frederick could not prove her claim that it was not consensual. Remember – she would have the burden of proof. If she could not prove it was “more likely than not”…. she would lose. Thus if the jury simply did not know who to believe, Frederick would lose.