Former firefighter expands discrimination, harassment lawsuit
Josh Weller now alleges his former chief, deputy chief and battalion chief harassed, discriminated and retaliated against him for defending a female coworker
By Genevieve Bookwalter
Pioneer Press Newspapers
LINCOLNWOOD, Ill. — A former Lincolnwood firefighter who is suing the village’s fire department is now naming his former chief, deputy chief and battalion chief as defendants in his lawsuit where the ex-firefighter alleges he was harassed, and discriminated and retaliated against for defending a female coworker and reporting what he called a supervisor’s drug use.
A motion to name the three additional defendants was made Oct. 9, as part of the lawsuit Josh Weller first filed Aug. 30, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
“Over the course of discovery in this case, particularly through a written answer from (Paramedic Services of Illinois Inc.) provided on June 28, 2018 and depositions at the village of Lincolnwood on September 27, 2018, as well as related investigation done by plaintiff’s counsel in light of the revelations, plaintiff is now prepared to name three individuals, all senior employees of PSI at the time the comments were made, who he alleges defamed him,” the motion reads.
PSI is the out-source company Lincolnwood has used since 1990 to staff the fire department. Weller worked for this company and was not directly employed by the village.
This latest motion states that an official provided false information about Weller to Chicago Police Department officials when they called to do a background check after Weller applied for a job there. The defendant then bragged about it in public.
The officials also falsely accused Weller of threatening to assault a Lincolnwood police officer, the motion alleges.
In a response dated Tuesday, attorneys for PSI wrote that Weller did not “state a claim for relief,” which would render the allegations “futile,” among reasons for dismissing the motion, according to court documents.
Defense attorneys also wrote in the response that “defamation actions are subject to a one-year statute of limitations,” which has expired, according to court documents.
The defendants in Weller’s federal civil complaint include PSI and "Jane and John Does 1-10." The village of Lincolnwood was originally named, but was dropped from the suit in January.
Neither Daniel Zemans, who is Weller’s attorney, nor Chicago attorney Brian Holman, who is representing PSI, were immediately available for comment on the motions from earlier this month.
In his complaint, Weller says he was employed by PSI starting in October 2010, and the company placed him in Lincolnwood in December 2015, where he worked until he was fired the following July.
The north suburb is one of the few municipalities in Illinois to outsource firefighter staffing, according to village officials. Lincolnwood officials said outsourcing saves the village money on pensions and benefits for the workers.
In the lawsuit, Weller describes what he called a pattern of harassment.
Weller witnessed male coworkers calling his female coworker explicit vulgarities, describe her as "useless," talk to her "brazenly" about her breasts, tell her "she should not try to seduce anyone at work," and ask if she was sleeping with her coworkers, according to the complaint.
Weller said in his lawsuit that male coworkers called him the woman's "guard dog," spread rumors that he and the woman were having an affair, asked Weller if he had impregnated her, asked for videos of the two having sex and texted him pornographic images asking if "the images depicted the type of sexual activity" Weller and the woman engaged in.
Weller also claims to have noticed and complained about the "ongoing abuse of prescription drugs by a superior officer while on duty that put the health and safety of patients, coworkers and the public at risk," among other actions, according to the lawsuit.
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