Gorilla Suit Stunt At Center of Florida Lawsuit

Yes, the headline is correct and a federal district court in Florida is now going to deal with a sexual harassment case where a key allegation involves a person in a gorilla suit strolling through a fire station.

Broward County firefighter Joanne Levings claims she has been bullied about her weight and harassed on the job for over five years. She claims one battalion chief publically accused her of “f…ing her brothers” (screwing in a non-sexual way), and retaliating against her when she complained.  She claims another battalion chief gave her the middle finger and openly referred to her as a gorilla.

Levings filed suit in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, naming the county sheriff and four supervisors who she claims are responsible for bullying and discrimination. The named defendants are Sheriff Scott Israel, District Chief Harris Bouchillion, and Battalion Chiefs Marc Cohen, Michael Clougherty and Joseph Murton.

The suit accuses Chief Clogherty of arranging for someone in a gorilla suit to run through the fire station at a social event that was being videoed.

Here is a copy of the video, titled "Firehouse Gorilla":


Levings was so upset with the hazing that she went for gastric-bypass surgery in 2010, just before the gorilla stunt took place. She alleges that much of what she endured was retaliation for her having complained.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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