‘LFD literally broke me’: Retired Mich. firefighter alleges sexual assault, harassment at department
“I was abused and harassed for being a lesbian female,” Lansing’s first-ever female battalion chief says
By Jessie Forand
LANSING, Mich. — Lansing’s first-ever female battalion chief said she was sexually assaulted by a superior and harassed to the point of retiring early.
Shawn Deprez was promoted to battalion chief of the Lansing Fire Department in 2017, Lansing City Pulse reported, after more than 20 years with the organization.
She retired in 2019.
“I was a gay female battalion chief who was harassed my entire career. It never stopped even though I was finally in a position to change LFD for the better. Once again, I was met with more harassment than ever before,” Deprez said in a post on social media.
The retired chief alleged she was subjected to sexist and homophobic harassment during her time with the department. She also said she was sexually assaulted while on the job at the station.
“I have the names. My personnel file will show all of the people who harassed me. More importantly, I was also sexually assaulted on the job,” Deprez, 53, told City Pulse. “But it was a good paying job. I was a single mother trying to raise a daughter, and it afforded me that.”
Asked about the assault, she said it happened when she was a new firefighter: “It was a superior. It was in the middle of the night. Let’s just leave it at that.”
Higher-ups and human resources ignored what she called a constant battle for men to be held accountable, ending when she spent $97,000 to buy herself out for early retirement.
“No one cared or did anything to stop the abuse,” she said.
According to City Pulse reporting, other female firefighters spoke out, too. Former Firefighter-Paramedic Heidi Moen said sexual harassment and microaggressions were a regular occurrence within the department. She commented on Deprez’s Facebook post that former female employees “will no longer be quiet.”
Deprez said that despite repeated requests for help regarding the harassment, she was ignored.
“I was abused and harassed for being a lesbian female. Until my final day, I was treated poorly by men at the Lansing Fire Department,” she said in her post. “I was even harassed by other females and not one person was brave enough to take a stand and hold themselves responsible for the hate they allowed to happen that damn near destroyed me. I’ve begged and pleaded for help from HR and many of Lansing’s fire chiefs and no one stopped the harassment of lesbians.”
She called the social media post a part of her healing and said, “I still suffer every day. LFD literally broke me.”
As a result of the post, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor plans to review comments and discrimination reports, he said.
City Pulse reported that other allegations have been made against the fire department, including from current and former Black staffers involved in a lawsuit against Schor and the city for race-based retaliation.
Former Chief Randy Talifarro wrote to Schor months before Deprez’s retirement, saying there was a need for diversity and explaining he quit “when the workplace became ‘extremely uncomfortable,’” City Pulse reported.