Federal Lawsuit Alleges Charleston County Failed to Protect Paramedic From Sexual Harassment

When Kristin Hammond was sexually harassed while trying to perform her job as a paramedic, she reacted immediately with verbal reprimands. When it happened multiple times, she reported the behavior. She says nothing was done to protect her or other employees who were experiencing the same kind of abuse.

The first incident occurred when the Crew Chief slapped her buttocks as she walked past him after clocking in. Another time, he grabbed her breast, and yet another time he placed his hands on her hips and thrust himself at her in a sexual manner. Ms. Hammond tried to press criminal charges against Crew Chief Malcolm DeFleice, but the charges were dropped without her permission.

Not Part of the Job

After Ms. Hammond started her pursuit of justice, she says other female employees came forward detailing the same kind of complaints. According to the lawsuit, Mr. DeFleice exhibited an ongoing pattern of sexual harassment over a period of five and a half years, during which time he suffered no consequences for his actions.

Not only that, Charleston County Emergency Medical Services (CCEMS) offered no sexual harassment training for supervisors or employees until after Ms. Hammond had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There were no policies prohibiting sexual harassment, no policies on how to deal with sexual harassment, and no education on sexual harassment within the organization.

According to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, sexual harassment against emergency personnel isn’t just a problem women face. When a work environment is rife with interpersonal strife and unpleasant behavior, it causes problems for everyone within the organization. This is a particularly serious problem in an environment like emergency services where individuals depend on each other in sensitive and stressful situations.

Never Again

Ms. Hammond hopes that by filing a lawsuit she can keep these kinds of situations from happening again. What happened in the CCEMS could happen anywhere if the people involved aren’t aware of their rights and responsibilities toward others. The kind of behavior directed toward women in the organization didn’t just affect them, but their families and communities.