Sexually Explicit Gingerbread House Becomes Cornerstone Of Harassment Suit

Two members of a New York volunteer ambulance service have filed suit accusing the organization and four of its members of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Raymis Ruiz and John Messing filed suit this week in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the Bay Shore Brightwaters Rescue Association (BSBRA), Felix Rodriguez, Joseph A. Frisina, Charles Chapman, and Allex Mullin. One of the more colorful allegations in the complaint claims that during the 2015 Christmas holiday season a gingerbread house was placed on display at the station that was “sexually derogatory and explicit.”

The complaint describes the ginger bread house as follows:

  • gummy bears were placed in sexual positions with the words “Ho, Ho, Ho” directed towards them;
  • gummy bears in sexual positions were placed throughout the display as if having a sexual orgy;
  • hand-drawn pictures of a hand giving the middle finger, along with words like “gloryhole,” “skank ass,” “suck-cock,” “sexual harassment in progress” and other sexual profanities

Here are photos of the gingerbread house:


From the complaint:

  • PLAINTIFF RAMIS KIMBERLEY RUIZ is a 21-year-old female, who is a volunteer EMT / Crew Chief at Bayshore Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance, Inc. at all times relevant to the Complaint.
  • PLAINTIFF JOHN MESSING, JR. is a forty-one-year-old male, who was a volunteer EMT / Captain at Bayshore Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance, Inc. at all times relevant to the Complaint.
  • PLAINTIFF RUIZ, who was among other BSBRA members that saw the gross and offensive holiday display, took photographs of the display. But, PLAINTIFF RUIZ did not complain out of fear of retaliation.
  • From this point forward, PLAINTIFF RUIZ understood that the culture at BSBRA, under Defendants, tolerated unlawful and sexually offensive discrimination and/or sexual harassment.
  • Upon information and belief, despite the clear unlawful and offensive nature of the above gingerbread house, same was allowed to remain on the premises and on display for some time before it was removed.
  • Further, upon information, the only reason it was removed is because nonmember civilians, who were present in the BSBRA facility and saw the horrific display, expressed concerns about its presence.
  • To date, no action has been taken against the individual who made and displayed the gingerbread house at BSBRA.
  • This sexual gingerbread house incident made it clear to PLAINTIFFS, particularly PLAINTIFF RUIZ, that unlawful discriminatory activity would be tolerated and ignored by BSBRA DEFENDANTS herein.
  • Months later, PLAINTIFF RAMIS RUIZ was subjected to sexual harassment, sexual rumors, bullying unwanted sexual comments, remarks and behavior by DEFENDANT ALEX MULLIN, PLAINTIFF RUIZ made a complaint to COLLECTIVE DEFENDANTS about MULLIN’S conduct.
  • Consistent with the culture of BSBRA, COLLECTIVE DEFENDANTS failed/refused to act on PLAINTIFF RUIZ’S complaint and instead subjected PLAINTIFF RUIZ to intimidation, threats, false accusations and coercion – while shaming and blaming PLAINTIFF RUIZ for being harassed.
  • PLAINTIFFS MESSING supported PLAINTIFF RUIZ and attempted to get BSBRA DEFENDANTS to follow-up on, investigate, and resolve PLAINTIFF’S sexual harassment complaints – pursuant to BSBRA’s purported zero-tolerance antidiscrimination policy.
  • As a result of PLAINTIFF MESSING’S attempts to convince DEFENDANTS to take action with regard to the ongoing hostile work environment faced by PLAINTIFF RUIZ, DEFENDANTS retaliated against PLAINTIFF MESSING, subjected him to wrongful suspension and then termination.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Ruiz et al v Bay Shore Brightwaters Rescue

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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